Chandler, Arizona: 6 places for lovers of Art and History

The city of Chandler is located in Maricopa County in Arizona. It is bordered by Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, Gilbert, and the Gila River Indian Community, and is known for many things. Among these claims to fame are its lively culture scene, diverse leisure activities, and bustling tech presence, being home to satellite offices of renowned players like Intel and Orbital ATK.

If your interest lies somewhere between arts and history, you will find that Chandler does not disappoint. Some of the city’s best offerings are galleries and exhibits that highlight both its talent and rich heritage.

Where It All Began

Chandler is a relatively young city that traces its beginnings to the turn of the 20th century. In 1891, Arizona territory’s first veterinary surgeon, Dr. Alexander John Chandler, bought a piece of desert land south of Mesa from the federal government. Dr. Chandler, besides his inclination for veterinary science, was also highly interested in the field of irrigation engineering which, at the time, was relatively new. He used this interest to lead the construction of a system of canals that breathed life, so to speak, to the barren terrain.

By the time the 1900s started, Dr. Chandler was the proud owner of an 18,000-acre ranch. Unfortunately, the Salt River Project provided that landowners could only irrigate 160 acres of property. Dr. Chandler decided to subdivide his ranch; with the help of planners and architects, he drew a township map. He then sold the Chandler ranch sites to buyers from all over the United States.

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Chandler’s community was officially founded on May 17, 1912 when Dr. Chandler opened the doors of the township office. At the time, the building was no more than a wooden construct. The newly completed Arizona Eastern Railroad ushered in 300 speculators who spent a total of $50,000 on land that day. By the time a year had passed, the Bank of Chandler and the Eastern Railroad depot had been built, along with some businesses that lined the western and southern sides of Chandler’s central park. Over time, through both war and peace, the town grew into the city everyone knows today.

Galleries and art exhibits

Chandler is proud to declare its affinity for the arts. The city is home to a number of exhibits and art galleries that show the work of artists in the region, as well as pieces that mark its heritage and history. Here are places worthy of a visit:

1. Vision Gallery. This is a cultural center located in downtown Chandler. It is managed by the Chandler Cultural Foundation and rotates various themed exhibits, such as Hollywood, the beauty of the desert, and even pop culture, all by professional artists. A portion of the gallery’s earnings goes to its Vision Kids Program, which offers free classes on different art media, such as drawing, batik ceramics, watercolor, and others. If you’re staying for a bit in Chandler with your kids, this program is a great opportunity for your young ones to work with professional artists in honing their creativity.

2. Chandler Center for the Arts. If theatre and drama is more your thing, then this venue, located in downtown Chandler is for you. Aside from exhibits by professional artists, the center also presents a variety of theatrical, musical, and dance productions. There is no discrimination against style, with the center giving equal billing to a diverse list of genres, including pop, rock, jazz, theater music, circus, and ballet, among others. The Chandler Center for the Arts also has programs for kids who want to explore their artistic potential which, again, is great if you have kids with you.

3. The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and American Indian Art. This gallery is located in South Chandler at the Bashas’ headquarters. It officially opened in 1992 and is home to over 3,000 pieces of contemporary western American art, as well as American Indian art. These art pieces include baskets, Kachinas, oil and watercolor paintings, wood-turned bowls, pottery, and even jewelry. The gallery is open on weekdays and admission is free.

4. The Chandler Museum. If you want to learn more about the history of this beautiful city, the Chandler Museum is, without doubt, one of the best places to start. This gallery hosts rotating exhibits and is the site of an archive center dedicated to the city’s culture and history. A bit of bad news though: the museum is currently closed for renovations and is set to reopen in 2018, with the promise of bigger and better exhibits.

5. The Arizona Railway Museum. If you are interested in locomotives and the history they carry, then this place is ideal for you. It features restored train cars from various points in the country’s history. You can also see train-related exhibits, such as railcars made from china and glass, movie set rail cars, and a lot more. The main building alone is enough to take you back, it being a recreation of the original Chandler depot. If you have a meeting or a celebration, you can hold it here as some of the rail cars are available for use for small events. The Arizona Railway Museum is open during weekends.

6. Downtown Chandler. Do you like public art? If so, you will be glad to know that the city of Chandler has lots of them. A walk through downtown Chandler will give you an awesome view of the pieces created with walls, buildings, parks and other public places as the canvas. The pieces reflect the city’s cultural diversity and the creativity of its natives. You might need a map of the city’s art if you are a tourist though.

The city of Chandler has had a long history, something that its many art pieces and exhibits never fail to express. Whether it’s through paintings, pottery, theater, music, or dance, everything that makes Chandler special is recorded and maintained for even future generations to see and experience. If you love art or a good time, Chandler has it all.

Thinking of adding new art pieces to your collection?

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