Thursday, December 18, 2014

An Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra - Julie Comnick


I am the youngest of three siblings. When we were growing up, my brothers and I took piano lessons. I played up until high school, when I decided to devote time elsewhere. My brothers quit too, one after the other and now the expensive family piano sits unused in my parent’s home.

While earning to play an instrument fosters the arts, it also teaches children valuable lessons about hard work and the importance of practice. But children everywhere are losing access to basic music classes in school. If music education isn't a priority at home, and if parents can’t afford private lessons, what will become the source for music education? The world around us is changing; we live in a time where music and media is instantly accessible. With a click of a button you can have an entire album at your disposal. Technology has forever changed the way music is transmitted, understood and received.

Visual artist Julie Comnick has created a riveting exhibit entitled An Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra, which discusses the relationship between technology and art, and the loss of cultural traditions in the modern world. I recently spoke with Julie about the inspiration and meaning behind her work. “The questions this project raises about the relationship between increasing technology and its impact on cultural heritage pertain across art disciplines, including music: What is the result of reduced funding for the arts in education? In a nanosecond culture, what becomes of practice?”

The violin is the centerpiece of Comnick’s exhibit and she has a deep connection with the instrument. Comnick grew up playing the violin, but slowly began to leave it behind in High School, and permanently in College when music classes were unavailable.

After collecting irreparable violins from around the nation, Comnick set them aflame.  “The act of burning the violins was indeed an intense emotional experience, which I hope is reflected in the project…when the fire was finally underway, and I found myself in a moment of quiet observation, it was hauntingly beautiful.”

While you may be thinking her approach is harsh, she believes burning was the best method to get her message across. “A pile of violins is to an orchestra as a pile of kindling is to a fire; burning evokes the history of the practice of symbolic burning, and encourages the viewer to contemplate its intention.” Historically the burning of books, flags or draft cards was made a statement and carried a message beyond the act itself. This is no different for Comnick’s project.


Another feature of the exhibition is its call for advocacy. “While the violin is personally significant to me, it is culturally symbolic to a generation that, due to circumstances such as increased technology and reduced public funding for the arts, is less likely to learn to play an instrument in school, seldom attends the symphony, and is unlikely to pass values of musical heritage onto their children.” Comnick reaches beyond herself to speak out about the possibilities for future generations.

But music isn't to be lamented; there is always a hope that it will hold value and evolve in new ways. As an adult, she returns to the violin and the exhibit even features her own performance. This exhibition raises questions about our present and instills hope for a brighter future.

Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra features large scale paintings that show the progress of the fire as it destroyed the violins as well as a video component. The project spent several years from start to finish with Comnick “spending a year researching the topic, collecting so many instruments, staging the burn, completely a portfolio of preparatory paintings, and video production; and several more years devoted to completing the series of large-scale paintings.”  Her dedication is truly inspiring and is evident in each piece.

On display at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum from December 19, 2014 – March 22, 2015, this thought provoking display should not be missed. Come see for yourself and consider the role of art and technology in your own life.


 By Katie Selph

Monday, December 8, 2014

Phillp C. Curtis Original joins MCAM Collection


We are pleased to announce that an original Phillip C. Curtis piece, called “The Bandwagon” has been donated to the MCAM permanent collection by the Phillip C. Curtis Charitable Trust for the Encouragement of Art.

If you have come to the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in the past few months, you may have seen the piece in “The Ringmaster” – an exhibit featuring circus themed works by Phillip C. Curtis. Curtis is an Arizona icon and continues to inspire with his surrealist art.

Tiffany Fairall, associate curator at the MCAM, is happy that the piece has found a place in the MCAM family. “Curtis often represented himself as a dog in his work. There is a dog following the bandwagon in this print, so I feel like a small piece of him has found a home here.”

The donation is a wonderful addition to our collection and we thank the Phillip C. Curtis Trust for their generosity.

Phillip C. Curtis was dubbed the “Magritte of the Old West” for his surrealist approach to painting. His works often feature metaphoric imagery and Victorian figures in Desert landscapes. His works explore deep human emotion through the merging of reality and dreams.  He was a wonderful and important Arizona artist.


By Katie Selph 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Congratulations to TheStore




Congratulations are in order! TheStore at Mesa Arts Center won AZCentral’s Best of 2014 for “Best place to find Arizona-made gifts” – Thank you to everyone that voted! We are lucky to have TheStore on the MAC campus.

TheStore at Mesa Arts Center is an Artists Cooperative Gallery with unique gifts including pottery, painting, jewelry, photography, blown glass and textiles. Featuring the work of up to 60 Arizona artists, the co-op offers a great opportunity to support local artists and find one-of-a-kind creations at affordable prices.

Include TheStore in your holiday shopping to get special Arizona-made gifts for your loved ones!


Learn more about TheStore or ‘Like’ TheStore on Facebook to get the latest news and updates. Visit AZCentral’s Best of 2014 to see the complete list of this year’s winners. 

By Katie Selph 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Reasons You Should Come to the Mesa Arts Festival


1. It keeps things local. This year we are celebrating all the Valley has to offer by collaborating with Tempe Festival of the Arts and Phoenix Festival of the Arts to kick off the season together! Mesa Arts Festival brings in local artists and vendors to give you the opportunity to buy unique, handcrafted gifts in various artistic mediums. Live entertainment showcases local and national talent to give you a true Arizona Christmas. 
2. It’s perfect for the whole family. The Bookmans Family Activity Area will be set up all day for you to bring your kids and enjoy free activities! Your little ones can paint ceramic ornaments, make pine cone crafts, listen to stories and many other activities.
3. You can experience all of the great features of the MAC campus. Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum and the MAC Artists’ Cooperative Gallery: The Store will be open. You can see ceramics, glass blowing, blacksmithing, weaving, jewelry making, painting and printmaking demonstrations! Festival goers will even be able to try out many of the classes we offer.
4. There is a wide range of entertainment options.
 Are you a big fan of 50s music? There is a cover band for that! There will also be acoustic country and classic rock bands performing. C’est la vie Quartet, an all-female voice ensemble, will perform Christmas carols as they roam through the crowd. There will also be juggling, a performance by the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and hijinks from Comedy Improv Troupe. OH! And don’t forget “Chrome,” a unique interactive experience created by performance artist Rachel Bowditch and her Vessel collaboration. You can’t be disappointed with the line up!
5. This is a wonderful way to ring in the holiday season. Get out of the house and experience a festive, free event that brings the community out to celebrate together. There is something for everyone at the Mesa Arts Festival and you can be sure that your family, friends and loved ones will have a great time.

Don’t miss out on this seasonal experience! The Mesa Arts Festival will be on December 13 and 14, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is a great opportunity to come to the MAC campus if you have never been and the perfect reason to come back if you’ve been before. We hope to see you there!

By Katie Selph 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don’t miss it! Register for class at the MAC!


It is never too late to learn and the classes offered at Mesa Arts Center are perfect for anybody and everybody to pick up a new hobby or skill. Whether you know what class you would like to take, or want to try something new and different, you can find the perfect fit for your interests.

We offer classes for children, teens and adults. Classes offered cover a wide range of artistic mediums. Try glass workshops, ballet, drama, ceramics, life drawing, cartoon drawing, blacksmithing, jewelry making and much more! Classes vary from beginning to advanced, so you can be sure you are at the right level. Explore your options and see what is out there!


Registration for Winter 2015 classes opens up on December 5th! Classes run from a few weeks to a full 16 week period. All of our classes are taught by professional instructors who encourage their students with enthusiasm and personal experience in their chosen field. Students also have access to state-of-the-art equipment in our studios, so they can have the best experience possible.


Don’t wait too long or the class you want might fill up! Check out all of our course offerings to learn more about each class. You can download the class registration form here and get signed up right away! We would love to see you at the MAC campus and hope you find the right class for you or your family members.