Season roundup: Arts and culture events around the Valley

Some of the must-attend arts events this season

Compiled by Michelle Talsma Everson, October 2019 Issue.
Photos courtesy of venues.

It’s officially fall, which means cooler temps and arts events galore. Whether it’s a film festival, a gallery event or themed around a specific holiday, there is no shortage of things to do and art to experience this season. While the list we’ve compiled isn’t exhaustive of everything going on in the Valley (and beyond) this arts season, we hope it inspires you to get out of the house and get your art on.

A Vampire Tale by Scorpius Dance Theatre

October 3-12
The Hardes Theatre at The Phoenix Theatre Company

This fall season, Scorpius Dance Theatre presents its popular production, A Vampire Tale. Dubbed “’The ‘Nutcracker’ of Halloween,” the yearly haunt is celebrating its 16th anniversary season. A Vampire Tale indulges audiences with all the trimmings: dark and sexy drama, quirky and comedic episodes, and visually stunning dance and aerial feats. This popular, sell-out production pre-dates all of the vampire pop-culture and evolves annually to keep fans coming back for more.

Inaugural Mesa Film Festival

October 17-20
Mesa Convention Center and Downtown Mesa Venues

The Mesa Film Festival is excited to announce the inaugural festival at Mesa Convention Center and at venues downtown October 17-20. The festival welcomes participation from industry veterans, students, and everyone in between. Mesa Film Festival will host about 200 films from around the world for three days of film, art, food and fun for the whole family.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Select Dates Between October 9 and November 10
Phoenix Theatre

The Phoenix Theatre Company is offering audiences an exceptional and powerful multisensory experience with this show. Set in the main character’s brain, the audience experiences nontraditional storytelling through a stunning mix of multimedia effects intended to mimic the over-stimulation the protagonist must endure to continue to pursue his case. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the story of 15-year-old Christopher Boone and the mystery surrounding the death of a neighbor’s dog. Christopher is not only a mathematical genius, but also on the autism spectrum, providing a unique perspective as the storyteller.

Scottsdale Gallery Association Gold Palette ArtWalk

Select Dates from October 10 through 2020

On Thursday, October 10, the Scottsdale Gallery Association (SGA) kicks off its 45th season recognizing, advocating for and supporting the local art community with its weekly Thursday evening ArtWalks and Gold Palette ArtWalk series, which take place amid the Scottsdale Arts District along Main Street from Scottsdale Road west to Goldwater Boulevard, and on Marshall Way north of Indian School Road to Fifth Avenue. From 6:30 to 9 p.m., the 45th Anniversary Celebration Gold Palette ArtWalk is scheduled to include an engaging slideshow featuring Scottsdale Arts District highlights over the past 45 years; and at 6:45 p.m. guests can also enjoy live music with an early ‘70s theme and refreshments as they peruse the galleries throughout the District.

Wild Rising by Cracking Art
October 12 to May 10, 2020
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

The Garden’s newest exhibition is traveling straight from Milan to bring Wild Rising by Cracking Art, an installation of more than 1,000 animal sculptures made from colorful and recyclable plastic. Visitors of all ages will be drawn to engage with these vibrant creatures and to discover that plastic does not have to end up in landfills, but it can be reinvented into something eye-catching and thought-provoking.

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden

October 18-27

The Town of Carefree’s Fifth Annual Enchanted Pumpkin Garden is a one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrating the magic of the Halloween season. The event takes place Oct. 18–27, with the incredible artistry of Ray Villafane and Villafane Studios’ carvers on display live each day, and their carvings found throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens. On weekends, this annual event boasts magical Halloween activities for kids and adults, plus culinary delights and autumnal refreshments including a beer garden, a harvest market and live music.

Counter-Landscapes: Performative Actions from the 1970s – Now

October 26 – January 19, 2020

As a counter to the established ideas of land art, Counter-Landscapes: Performative Actions from the 1970s – Now presents leading artists working with performance who have brought about new ways of seeing and interacting with the environment. Through a focused selection of key historical and contemporary works, Counter-Landscapes illuminates how the strategies of women artists in the 1970s and 1980s are employed by artists today, especially those interested in issues of social, environmental, and personal transformation. The works present a dialogue across generations, locations, and genders and feature photography, video, sculpture, performance, and installation. Organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Dia de los Muertos Festival
Sunday, November 3, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
St. Mary’s Basilica Plaza, downtown Phoenix

The sixth annual Dia de los Muertos Festival, hosted by St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, will be bigger than ever this year with the addition of Aztec-costumed dancers leading the opening procession with energetic dance, and four large community ofrendas (altars to honor the memory of ancestors) designed by local Hispanic artists. The family-friendly, outdoor event takes place at 3rd and Monroe Streets, and is free and open to all. A suggested donation: one item of non-perishable food for St. Vincent de Paul.

Canal Convergence | Water + Art + Light

November 8-17
Scottsdale Waterfront

This is a free, 10-day, public art event from November 8–17 at the Scottsdale Waterfront. This year’s event follows the theme of “The Story of Water” and will feature numerous large-scale, light-based installations, many of which will have interactive components. Featured artworks include “Standing Wave,” by the UK-based artist studio Squidsoup, and “Water Serpent,” by Scottsdale-based Walter Productions. “Standing Wave” comprises 600 orbs of light and sound that will simulate a wave over the Arizona Canal while “Water Serpent” is a 200-foot-long, floating sculpture that shoots fire into the air from its metallic spine and sparks from its mouth. In addition to the artworks, Canal Convergence features live performances, food vendors, a beer and wine garden, educational artist talks and all-ages workshops and activities throughout the event. It is organized by Scottsdale Public Art, part of the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts.

Kierland POP Festival

November 15-16

To kick off the beautiful fall weather season, the annual outdoor Kierland POP festival will take place Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16 in Scottsdale. The two-day festival will include a series of interactive, pop-up experiences featuring wine from Arizona winemakers, art in unexpected places, live music and entertainment, a vintage market, a night run, and more.

Arizona Musicfest

Select Dates November 8 – March 13, 2020

The 29th annual Arizona Musicfest festival season brings a diverse lineup of exceptional artists to Valley audiences. Arizona Musicfest’s 2019-20 Festival Season includes 27 performances from November 8 through March 13. Festival highlights include Grammy award winner Michael Bolton; chart-topping, multi-talented entertainer Vanessa Williams; acclaimed country star Sara Evans; iconic TV, stage and screen celebrity Tony Danza; Musicfest favorites Chris Botti and Michael Feinstein; plus, holiday concerts featuring The 5 Browns and New York Voices. Stellar ensembles coming to the Musicfest stage include the legendary John Pizzarelli Trio, The Hot Sardines, Back to Bacharach, as well as Under the Streetlamp performing classic hits with tight harmonies.

Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour

Nov. 22-24 and Nov. 29-Dec. 1 

A signature event of the nonprofit Sonoran Arts League, Hidden in the Hills is Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour. This year’s event features 199 artists at 47 studio locations throughout the scenic Desert Foothills communities of Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.

 The free, self-guided studio tour offers art enthusiasts a rare chance to observe artists at work in their private studios, which are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


November 30
Piper Theater at the Mesa Arts Center

Choir! Choir! Choir! is a Toronto-based singing group led by creative directors Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman. The duo takes a non-traditional approach; there are no auditions, and the audience is the choir. Audience members will learn an original arrangement to a well-loved song. Founded in 2011, Choir! Choir! Choir! has amassed a dedicated community of singers and an international fan base on YouTube.

Las Noches de las Luminarias

Select Dates in November and December
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix

Celebrate the romance of the season with one of Arizona’s longest-running holiday traditions — Las Noches de las Luminarias. On select nights Nov. 29 through Dec.31, stroll the Garden’s trails lined with 8,000 glowing luminaria bags and gaze at the glistening lights with a warm drink in hand. Happen upon toe-tapping tunes from eclectic entertainment groups and cherish the time spent with friends and family during the holiday season.

This image has an empty alt attribute