Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tohono Chul Park


This past weekend, I took a road trip with my oldest daughter to visit Tucson, Arizona. The main purpose for this trip was so that she could visit with her boyfriend, who is in the Army and stationed in Arizona.

I was worried that this would mean that I was going to be spending my entire weekend cooped up in the hotel room while they were off shopping and swimming, but, fortunately, I came across a Tucson based magazine that was called "Art Scene" and featured the local museums, galleries and other art happenings throughout the Tucson area.

It was in that magazine that I found an advertisement for Tohono Chul Park. The ad said "Where Nature, Art, & Culture Connect!" and reading further, I saw that they featured natural Arizona settings, gardens, art museums, and even a Tea House! Somehow, I felt as though this place was built just for me!

The garden was immense and beautiful. Scrolling pathways lead you through every area within the park, and as I walked through, I saw hummingbirds flitting from blossom to blossom. Roadrunners ran amid the cactus plants, and I could hear the gentle coos of mourning doves. Lizards would scurry across the paths as I strolled along through the winding paths. It was truly a rewarding experience with nature.

As beautiful as these gardens were, I must say that museums located on opposite sides of the gardens offered a welcome respite from the heat of the blazing Tucson sun. They were indoors -- and air conditioned!

One of these museums was rather small, as it was connected to classrooms and was assembled as an artifact museum, offering educational information about the native wildlife and history of Arizona. Surrounding this museum, called the "Desert Discovery Education Center" was the Desert Living Courtyard, and featured several stunning designed gardens.

The second museum, the "exhibit house" is attached to a gift shop where you can purchase many art pieces created by local artists, including some rather stunning examples of polymer clay works! When I first looked upon these pieces, I didn't think that they were polymer clay, they were so intricately detailed, I thought surely they must be hand painted wood carvings!

The exhibit house was showing two different exhibits when I visited, one featured the artwork of local Jr. High School and High School students, while the other was called "Re-Visions" and featured altered art, or more appropriately, re-purposed art.

I was really quite impressed with the Re-Visions exhibit especially, because this is the kind of art that not only I create, but truly inspires and excites me.

Remington Rand
An Artpiece created using Rust as a Medium
by artist Don Baker
photo from the Tohono Chul Park website

The artists featured in this exhibit created exceptional works of art using items that most people would consider junk or trash. It was truly inspiring to see ordinary objects turned into extraordinary artwork, it was amazing to experience the visions (or Re-Visions) of these artists. I felt that I walked away from this exhibit a different person, and a changed artist. Even though I do consider myself an altered artist, for the past few months, I've found myself in somewhat of a lull, and have not been able to create. The inspiration found at Tohono Chul Park has revitalized my muse, and I feel truly INSPIRED!

Now, I must admit that one of the things that I was really looking forward to at Tohono Chul Park was afternoon tea in their tea house! And, I certainly was not disappointed by my visit.

I chose their grapefruit green tea, and it was really delicious. The grapefruit was delightfully pungent, and perfectly complimented by the natural sweet flavors in the green tea. In fact, I loved this flavor so much that I may just have to create my own grapefruit green tea for my tea shop collection!

The delicious array of sandwiches, scones, and sweets that they offered for afternoon tea were quite satisfying as well. My favorite was the salmon sandwich -- a nicely spiced cream cheese spread onto bread, topped with a thin slice of smoked salmon. It was an unusual tea sandwich, but one that I really enjoyed.

Of course, my stay at Tohono Chul Park would not have been complete without some shopping in their quaint gift shops. I found some delightful tea choices (although, I sadly did not find the green tea that they offered in the tea house), as well as some other interesting gifts for my daughters (and myself!)

If you are visiting Tucson, please do yourself a favor and stop in at the Tohono Chul Park. You won't be disappointed!


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