By Cynde Cerf
Chandler, Arizona, is known as the Innovation and Technology Hub of the Southwest, but this East Valley city also is home to a flourishing arts and culture scene.
The Chandler Center for the Arts, built in 1989, is an example of the city’s serious commitment to the arts. A unique facility with award-winning acoustics, the Center serves the community with public performances Friday through Sunday while providing the students of Chandler High School with a world-class space during the week for theatre, music and dance. More than 300,000 people experience arts and music performances at the Center each year, with more than 30 events supported by the Chandler Cultural Foundation, a 501c3 organization that raises funds for the Center’s artistic and outreach programs.
“With broad support from the city, individuals and corporations, Chandler Center for the Arts has the ability to provide distinctive programs to our citizens and those who live in the surrounding community,” said Michelle Mac Lennan, general manager at Chandler Center for the Arts. “We also are able to serve the youth in our community with daytime performances of outstanding talent like the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Okee Dokee Brothers, so they have the special experience of going to the theater.”
There are two galleries supported by the city and the Chandler Cultural Foundation. One is located at the Chandler Center for the Arts, and the other is the Vision Gallery, located at Chandler City Hall. Both regularly rotate exhibitions that showcase Arizona artists who work in a variety of media, including textiles, oil painting, photography and lino prints. “The Vision Gallery has a very important place in Downtown Chandler,” said Peter Bugg, visual arts coordinator for the city. “It served as the original catalyst for the revitalization of the downtown area and continues to be a part of its growth.”
Bugg not only oversees the galleries but also manages the city’s public art collection. There are more than 650 pieces in Chandler’s collection, which includes the kinetic steel shade structure that makes up the front of Chandler’s City Hall, titled “Turbulent Shade” by artist Ned Kahn. The city also participates in public art initiatives like In Flux, providing more opportunities for local artists. All of these public artworks are funded through the city’s Percent for Art Ordinance, with one percent of capital improvement projects allocated for public art. All of this work is commissioned by the Chandler Arts Commission, seven residents who recommend and advise the city council, city manager and staff on the municipal arts fund.
Chandler Museum has more than 750,000 items in its collection, including newspapers, letters, artwork, furniture, yearbooks, the entire East Valley Tribune photo archive and many other objects. This museum is small but mighty and is changing the way the community thinks about its history. After more than two decades of planning, a new museum building is currently under construction. The project is expected to open in fall 2018 and will include a 10,000-square-foot building and 10,000 square feet of outdoor space that includes a covered courtyard.
“We are really excited about the new museum, and we know the community is going to be too,” said Jody Crago, administrator of Chandler Museum. “The new building is going to enable the museum to become a cultural destination with engaging, community-focused programs and forums, changing local exhibits, and world-class traveling exhibits.”
In Chandler, a resident doesn’t have to look much further than one of the four library locations to find arts and culture programming. Chandler Public Library boasts a collection of two million materials available to its 330,000 cardholders. Individuals can check out items from a shelf – the newest releases, classics or best sellers. They also can access a multitude of materials online, including music, language learning programs, e-books and Lynda.com courses. In December, the library is adding Kanopy streaming movie service, which includes documentaries, independent films and the Criterion catalog.
Chandler Public Library regularly hosts speakers at all of its locations. Most recently, the Library organized its fourth TEDxChandlerPublicLibrary event and is currently planning a Women’s Voices series that will provide a forum for local female authors to share their stories. Earlier in the year, the library won an award for its outstanding collaborative series “America in Times of Conflict,” which included movies, events, exhibits and talks that combined the expertise of divisions across the city to bring unique stories from Arizona during times of war.
Brenda Brown, community services director, said, “The City of Chandler is a place where we recognize the role arts and culture play in building community, creating wonder in our young people, and keeping creativity and learning alive in citizens of all ages.”
Find more information about the City of Chandler’s arts and culture divisions and what they have coming up, visit their websites:
Chandler Center for the Arts – www. chandlercenter.org
Chandler Museum – www.chandlermuseum.org
Chandler Public Library – www. chandlerlibrary.org
Vision Gallery – www.visiongallery.org
Cynde Cerf has had the pleasure of being a journalist, public relations practitioner and community volunteer in the Valley for nearly 20 years, working with some of the most inspiring people and organizations. She is currently an Information Specialist for the City of Chandler in the Community Services Department, happily spreading the word about the arts, culture, recreation and education experiences available in the city she calls home. Simply said, she has her dream job.