Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

This museum brings modern art, architecture and design to Arizona as well as displays that encourage visitors to express themselves.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) offers 18,500 square feet (1,720 square meters) of exhibition space divided up into five main galleries. It was founded in 1999 to champion the work of local, national and international artists, and to educate audiences. Its agenda is dedicated to art, architecture and design from the 1950s onwards. The exhibits and programs are meant to intrigue, inspire and provoke the viewer.

Before you venture inside to browse the exhibits, take a moment to walk around the sleek building to take in its design. It’s a minimalist structure that is a complete revamp of a movie theater that used to occupy the site. The purple-grey metal that covers it is supposed to imitate the shadows left by the fading sunset on the McDowell Mountain Range to the east. The sparkling steel facade reflects the blue desert sky.

When you walk through the doors you’ll discover how the old theaters of the cinema have been revamped into modern galleries. The large, well-lit rooms showcase the ever-changing exhibitions and the museum’s own permanent collection. There is a free, guided tour every Thursday. 

To rest your feet, select a bench at the Knight Rise skyspace and gaze up through a small opening in the ceiling to focus on the changing lights of the sky. This is a permanent exhibit by internationally recognized artist James Turrell. Writers and performers share true stories and live music in the SMoCA Lounge, which opens its doors on Friday and Saturday.

The museum in the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is closed on Mondays. Children 15 years and under don’t pay and Thursdays are free for everyone. In fact, the admission is very cheap any day. It takes about half an hour to drive here from downtown Phoenix.

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