Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Located in Scottsdale, Arizona’s Old Town, on the site of the former Loloma Transit Station, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West opened to the public in January 2015. The museum spans 43,000 square feet across two stories and showcases the art, culture, and history of the Western United States, Western Canada, and Mexico.

The Museum of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona, honors the West and its significance by providing visitors with opportunities for reflection, learning, and fun. High-quality exhibitions, educational activities, and community outreach are provided, all of which focus on Western history as represented in the arts and the dynamic cultural exchanges that have characterized the region’s transformation from the Old West to the New West. Visitors to Scottsdale, Arizona’s Museum of the West are taken on an adventurous journey through time and space to learn about the region’s rich history and how it has shaped contemporary life in the Greater Western region.

The City of Scottsdale owns Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, however the Museum is administered and run by Scottsdale Museum of the West, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the American West. Its operations are funded by private funding, including tax-deductible donations, memberships, exhibition and program sponsorships, and private hosting of events. As an affiliate of Experience Scottsdale, it helps bring tourists to the city. The Museum Director reports to a Board of Trustees who are responsible for overall management.

There are eight exhibition rooms, the Christine and Ted Mollring Sculpture Courtyard, the Sue and Robert Karatz Museum Shop, and the 135-seat Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Theater and Auditorium in this facility. Since 2015, Western Spirit has been an official Smithsonian Institution partner. Western Spirit has been crowned “The Nation’s Best Western Museum” by True West Magazine for the years 2016–2021.

The Western Spirit building was designed by Christopher Alt and Christiana Moss of Studio MA, an architecture firm with offices in Clifton, New Jersey, and Phoenix, Arizona. The landscaping was developed by the Phoenix, Arizona firm of Michele Shelor and Colwell. LEED Gold certification ensures that both indoor and outdoor areas are environmentally responsible. What the West represents physically and what it might imply to visitors and residents is reflected in the building’s materials, surfaces, colors, shapes, and construction methods.

In a nod to the saguaro cactus, the exterior of the structure is ribbed with concrete, which serves as both a design element and a source of passive vertical shading. The “weeping wall” in the Courtyard captures precipitation and channels air conditioning condensation for reuse in the museum’s landscaping.

Western saddles, weathered barns, and leather tooling are all inspirations for these intentionally aging decorative motifs. The lobby’s extensive use of Western red wood brings the outside within, enhancing the building’s natural ambience. The museum’s design isn’t linear; instead, it’s round and spiral, with the upper galleries representing the New West while shading and shielding the bottom galleries, which reflect the history and stories of the Old West. The courtyard acts as the museum’s hub. The museum welcomes your own spirit of exploration by letting you meander and discover your own way around.

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