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This French Directoire Room is part of the Narcissa Thorne Miniature Room collection at the Phoenix Art Museum.

by Jeff Brown
Phoenix Promotions Coordinator


Phoenix Art Museum
Accessible and Interesting

While everyone is in Phoenix in March for the 2007 USITT Conference & Stage Expo, don't allow that week to go by without personally enjoying some of the outstanding fine arts offerings that define Phoenix (and the surrounding Valley of the Sun) as the cultural capital of the southwestern United States.

Situated prominently between the Phoenix Theater and Playhouse on the Park (home to the Arizona Jewish Theater Company), the Phoenix Art Museum is located just 1.3 miles north of the Phoenix Convention Center (site of the Conference). Phoenix Art Museum is the leading art museum in the Southwest. It features a collection of more than 17,000 works of Early American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary, and Western American art including originals by such greats as Monet and Rodin. The museum is currently undergoing a $60 million renovation and expansion due to be completed in November 2006.

Phoenix Art Museum also features two exhibits that could be of special interest to members of USITT -- the Fashion Design collection and the Thorne Miniature Room collection. The Fashion Design collection (formerly called the Costume collection, renamed in 1996) has more than 4,500 American and European garments, shoes, and accessories from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries.

Exhibitions that focus on clothing both as an art form and as cultural phenomenon are rotated regularly in the Fashion Design gallery. When the museum renovation is complete, the collection will be moved to a new wing where an increased selection from the permanent collection (as well as touring exhibits) will be displayed. Some of the American designers represented are Adrian, Norell, Galanos, and Claire McCardell. European designers represented include Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent.

The Thorne Miniature Rooms collection houses 20 of Mrs. James Ward Thorne's miniature rooms constructed to a scale of one inch to one foot. Only 99 such pieces exist, a majority of which are at the Art Institute of Chicago. Many of Mrs. Thorne's rooms are exact replicas of existing houses in the United States and Europe dating from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries. The rooms faithfully depict the architecture and interior design of their periods and countries; some of the rooms even contain miniature period-style rugs that Mrs. Thorne had woven specifically for each space. The rooms are lit to look very natural, with light spilling in through a hallway or through carefully placed windows.

Mrs. Thorne began collecting miniature furniture and household accessories during her travels to England and the Far East shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. Beginning in 1930, she devised the plan to construct these model interiors to hold her growing collection of miniature objects. Her additional hope was that perfectly proportioned rooms in miniature could substitute for costly and space-consuming, full-scale period rooms that museums across the country were beginning to acquire.

Yet another point of interest at the Phoenix Art Museum is the Western Art collection. It is comprised of nearly 900 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints that explore the landscape and history of the American West. Highlights include paintings from the earliest explorations of Arizona, dating back to the mid-1800s.

While at the Museum, don't get away without a bite to eat from the Art Museum Café by Arcadia Farms, which offers a range of sandwiches, salads, and desserts. The kitchen closes at 3 p.m. but pastries, desserts, and drinks are available until 5 p.m. daily.

Introduce yourself to the Phoenix Art Museum online at, then visit in person at 1625 N. Central Avenue, just north of the Convention Center which is also on Central Avenue. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday 10 5 p.m., with late hours on Thursday until 9 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, and $7 for senior citizens and full-time students with a valid I.D. Daily one-hour tours are led by museum-trained volunteer docents and are included with museum general admission.

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This Delphos Dress by Mariano Fortuny circa 1920 is silk velvet stenciled with metals and can be found in the Phoenix Art Museum's collection.

Photos/Courtesy Phoenix Art Museum