Mesa's marvel

Arizona's new center for art and theater debuts
Melissa Castleman

When dreaming up a building to be devoted to the arts, why not make it wildly artistic? So goes the thinking behind the new Mesa Arts Center in Arizona. The sleek, $94.5 million complex, whose four stages were scheduled to open in mid-September for theater, dance, and concert performances, commands as much attention as the edgy art already on display in its five-room gallery.

The muse for the center's architects was the Sonoran Desert, with its colors, shapes, and terrain. Outside, clear- and colored-glass walls, ceiling panels, and bridges play with light and shadow, splashing ultramodern patterns onto the 7 acres of courtyards and sunken gardens below. Inside, design mimics the desert in the theaters themselves. Computerized lighting along the rocklike walls of the Ikeda theater can shine the mauves and golds of an Arizona sunset―and just might steal the show.

INFO: Mesa Arts Center ($3.50 gallery admission, performance prices vary; 1 E. Main St., Mesa, AZ; www.mesaartscenter.com or 480/644-6500)