Science, Performing Arts and Museums Give Depth to Flagstaff

You might not expect to find the height of culture in the middle of the desert wilderness.

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 15:59

You might not expect to find the height of culture in the middle of the desert wilderness. Sure, Flagstaff is home to its fair share of cacti and tumbleweeds, but the city is also brimming with sophistication. And it hasn’t happened overnight. More than 100 years ago, Boston mathematician Percival Lowell founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Roughly 70,000 people visit the observatory each year, which has earned distinctions such as the place Pluto was discovered and where an astronomer gathered the first evidence that the universe is expanding. Just a few short years after the Lowell Observatory turned its first telescope to the sky, the earliest incarnation of the acclaimed Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra debuted to a packed crowd. The FSO as it now exists was founded in 1950 as the Northern Arizona Symphony. Today, the symphony gives seven concerts between September and April, along with various community outreach performances. In 1911, the famed Orpheum Theater opened its doors. The venue underwent a complete restoration in 2002 and now features a lounge and a full bar, lush seating and state-of-the-art sound equipment. In addition to hosting concerts and theater events, the Orpheum often serves as the exquisite backdrop for Flagstaff’s most lavish soirées. Another hub of Flagstaff’s diverse culture is the Coconino Center for the Arts, which combines a 4,000-square-foot gallery with a 200-seat theater to create a home to all art forms. A wide range of exhibitions, performances and films grace the center, further enhancing Flagstaff’s cultural prowess. Finally, no survey of Flagstaff’s culture would be complete without a nod to the region’s rich history. The Museum of Northern Arizona preserves the culture of Flagstaff’s earliest inhabitants with exhibits featuring traditional pottery, sand paintings and dance. The museum also educates visitors about the region’s delicate biology and ongoing archaeology.