Love as an Art Form

published in Arizona Bride

When Patrice Ayala got engaged, she knew she wanted a reception that would stand out. “David and I had been to so many weddings in hotel ballrooms,” she says. “We really wanted to do something different.”

While it’s no secret that Phoenix and Scottsdale have dozens of compelling museums and galleries, it is less well known that many of these art spaces host receptions. “Growing up, I went to the Phoenix Art Museum every year at Christmas-time,” Ayala says, “but it wasn’t until I was browsing the reception sites in Arizona Bride that I realized I could get married there.”

Ayala knew she had discovered her own wedding wonderland when she visited the newly renovated Phoenix Art Museum. “We chose the Cummings Great Hall for the reception because it had a fresh, open feel. It had gallery balconies above and a staircase for the bridal party to walk down as we were introduced.” Her big day was “absolutely beautiful,” Ayala recalls. “Our guests leisurely roamed through galleries and the sculpture garden throughout the evening.”

A museum or gallery can be the ideal venue for those with an affinity for art, a soft spot for Southwestern culture or, like Patrice and David, a strong desire to do something original.

Classic Celebration

The Phoenix Art Museum is home to 17,000 works of art, including works by Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. Few reception sites can offer the timeless ambiance that the Phoenix Art Museum’s collections and classically progressive architecture create.

The museum offers several stunning reception locations. The largest and perhaps most versatile is the Cummings Great Hall, designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien & Associates. With space for up to 700 guests (standing), it has a built-in sound system, adjustable area lighting and polished limestone floors favorable for dancing. For receptions en plein aire, the museum offers the amber-lit Dorrance Sculpture Garden, the romantic Grossman Terrace and the Wild Plaza.

The Greenbaum Lobby, part of the recent $50 million renovation, is a new favorite wedding site within the museum. “It has soft lighting and a gorgeous view of the fountains and lawn outside,” says Jackie Barber, event sales coordinator. “I also recommend the J. P. Morgan Chase Lobby because it has windows overlooking both the sculpture garden and Central Avenue. It’s a great location for a cocktail hour before a reception in the Great Hall.”

Southwestern Spin

The Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art’s vibrant atmosphere makes it especially preferable for couples with many out-of-town guests, as it offers a rich taste of the Southwestern culture. This Spanish Colonial-style landmark boasts countless distinctive settings for wedding photos, including arched walkways, courtyards sprinkled with sculptures and fountains and fresh desert landscapes.

“When a couple books an evening with us, they get the entire property,” says Megan Upjohn, event sales manager. “We concentrate strictly on one group at a time to make sure that everything is perfect.” Guests are granted docents and complete access to the museum collection’s fascinating traditional and contemporary cultural objects, such as fine art, jewelry and fashion. The museum can provide festive Native American programming throughout the evening; flute musicians, hoop dancers, storytellers, sand painters and basket weavers are just some of the available entertainers. The Heard offers the rare luxury of a full kitchen and, for an extra charge, will open the Heard Museum Shop and Bookstore so guests can purchase souvenirs such as pottery, kachina dolls and textiles.

Old Town Charm

Bonner David Galleries stands in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale’s enlivened art district and displays Christi Bonner Manuelito and Clark David Olson’s love of traditional and contemporary artwork. “We have a friendly, intimate, indoor space,” says gallery director Manuelito.

Their jovial approach to art is what makes receptions at Bonner David Galleries distinctly captivating. Guests are seated at tables throughout the ever-changing gallery, giving table groups a unique and personal perspective of the art around them. Good news for the art-loving newlyweds is that Bonner David Galleries offers bridal registration and gift certificates.

Street parking can fill up fast due to Old Town’s many events and festivals, but guests should have no problem finding free parking in garages as close as a two-minute walk from the gallery. This short promenade will prove more of a treat than a chore. “People come from all over to walk Main Street and look through the windows,” says Manuelito. “We’re surrounded by high end-retail shops, galleries and nightlife. It’s such a fun, must-see area. Even the sophisticated types get a little crazy here.”

Organic Abstraction

Cervini Haas Gallery is a softly lit space with a dreamlike quality, featuring art of tactile, organic materials. The gallery’s wood, fiber, ceramic and glass artworks include abstract sculpture, art jewelry, paintings and textiles. They all work together to provide a warm and alluring environment well suited for romantic occasions.

Several features make receptions at Cervini Haas distinct. During the spring and fall, the gallery’s spacious Spanish-inspired courtyards, partly paved with brick and landscaped as desert gardens, are enchanting spots to eat, drink and be merry. For summer and winter weddings, art within the gallery can be adjusted to suit indoor dining table arrangements that make the most of charming courtyard views. The gallery’s open, minimalist design and contemporary cement floors provide brides and grooms with flexibility when designating space for musicians, dancing and dining. Practical minded couples will appreciate that the gallery has an adjacent alleyway useful for hiding catering setup, a small kitchen and offers the use of tables and chairs at no additional cost. While some galleries exclusively host events on Sundays and Mondays, says director Wendy Haas, “We can be flexible with daytime gallery hours.”

Contemporary Heart

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is the only Arizona museum completely devoted to current global art, architecture and design. According to director Susan Krane, it attracts those who are “attuned to the powerful energy of the visual culture of our time.”

Brides and grooms who find themselves in this category will delight in every unique aspect of receptions at SMoCA. The former movie theater renovated by award-winning architect Will Bruder is a clean, urban building that makes a striking backdrop for photographs both outside and within the museum. From outside, the museum is an abstract shape, the west side clothed in corrugated and perforated galvanized metal and the east in flat-seam galvanized steel. The interior boasts high ceilings of wood rafters, concrete tiled floors and gleaming metal fixtures. Reception guests can peruse the museum’s five versatile galleries, which showcase frequently changing exhibitions as well as works from the museum’s increasing permanent collection.

Guests can also enjoy the two sculptures in the museum’s garden. The first, Scrim Wall, by James Carpenter Design Associates, is composed of translucent glass panels hanging from a massive curving steel structure. Rows of laminated dichroic glass blades between the panels cast prismatic light reminiscent of a delicate lantern. The second, Knight Rise, by James Turrell, is a pearly chamber with an elliptical opening in the ceiling for viewing the sky’s ever-changing light and hue. It’s the perfect place for a newly wedded couple to savor their memorable day.

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