Did you know that about 62% of households in the United States have some kind of pet? Or that goldfish were kept as pets in China more than 2,000 years ago? Both are facts I learned while touring the “Extreme Pets” exhibit at Arizona Museum for Youth, which features more than 50 works by artists from several states and Valley cities. Artworks include woodcuts, sculptures, paintings and more — even a giant mobile hanging over a table where kids can make their own mobiles using sparkling pipe cleaners and other materials.
The first works I spotted after entering the “Extreme Pets” exhibit space were masks, plus an adorable golden chihuahua, by local artist Zarco Guerrero. Also a pair of life size sculptures featuring farm animals made with concrete, found objects and other materials. They’re near something called the “Animal House” — which sports a disco ball at the entrance. Inside the room, once all-white in color, visitors can add stickers provided by the museum to those already slapped onto the walls, floor and built-in bench plopped right in the middle of it all.
It’s one of many hands-on activities kids can enjoy at the museum. Others include making patterns of light on a giant pixel wall, creating digital pets with an XBox 360 game, using lasers to make sounds with something called a Beamz, making animal-theme collages, using stamp pads to make thumbprint animals and dropping golf balls down a chute to vote for their favorite types of pets. While exploring the museum, I found several displays of work created by young museum visitors – including birds, frogs and tigers drawn with bright colored pencils and hand-written notes for pets who’ve passed away.
While heading towards a wall labeled “Adopt a Pet,” I spied a veterinary theme area filled with animal puppets, stethescopes and such. The adoption section features displays by several Valley organizations that work with animals — including the Arizona Herpetological Society, Arizona Exotic Bird Rescue, Piggy Poo (a rescue organization for small animals), and the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SCPA. Another wall sports an interactive timeline of pets throughout history, which shows that dogs have the distinction of being humans’ first pets.
The “Extreme Pets” exhibit at Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa continues through Sept. 9. While you’re in Mesa, take a stroll or drive along Main St. — where you’ll discover several sculptures, including one featuring two bears and another featuring a pair of frogs. You’ll find several animal-related works at the Phoenix Art Museum, including a horse located in the sculpture garden. And the Scottsdale Civic Center Library recently opened an exhibit filled with animals and other creatures inspired by myth. “Tracking Monsters & Squirrels,” which features artwork by Christy Puetz, runs through Aug. 27 in a library exhibit space called The Gallery.
Click here to learn more about “Extreme Pets” at Arizona Museum for Youth and here for information on “Tracking Monsters & Squirrels” at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. Find additional exhibits listed in the “On Exhibit” section of the Raising Arizona Kids calendar.