I have always been fond of Wickenburg. With its close proximity to Phoenix, quaint shops and restaurants and the Old West feel, it makes for an enjoyable day trip. So, when my friend Lori called and asked if Evan and I would like to accompany her and her fiancé, Tony, to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, we jumped at the chance.
Lori and Tony have been repeat visitors to Wickenburg in April the past few years since they discovered the Cowgirl Up! Art from the Other Half of the West exhibition. This exhibit began in 2006 to “celebrate and recognize their enormous contribution to the cultural legacy of the American West. ” Anyone who visits this exhibit (or, the museum for that fact) will not be disappointed. The paintings, sculptures, photographs and other works range from whimsical to breathtaking.
There was so much beautiful art there that it would be hard, if I had the funds, to pick just one piece. However, there were a few that stood out to me. Harriet “Rox” Corbett creates these amazing charcoal drawings that look like black-and-white photographs upon first glance. In the oil paintings by Sue Krzyston, the beadwork on the moccasins look so three-dimensional you would think that tiny beads were attached to the painting, instead of an optical illusion created with paint. The pieces by Amy Ringholz just brought a smile to my face. Her ink drawings of animals filled in with vibrant hues of color would be a conversation piece on any wall.
Aside from the Cowgirl Up! exhibit the museum held other surprises. There was the Hall of History that held detailed dioramas of the events and people who shaped the region. There were also more than 700 artifacts in the Spirit of the Cowboy Collection that covered everything from the working cowboy to the Wild West shows that used to travel from town to town.
The lower level of the museum has replicated an early Wickenburg Street Scene from 1905 complete with a saloon, watch shop, livery stable, post office and a general store. Also downstairs is a hands-on area for children. Out on the Ranch features an old adobe house, a stable and corral with southwest critters hidden throughout it.
When you are done at the museum, take a stroll across the parking lot to the Cultural Crossroads Learning Center. This building houses several collections including minerals, artifacts from Wells Fargo and other express companies of the day, Native American pottery, rugs and Katsina dolls and my favorite bola (not bolo) ties. Apparently Wickenburg’s own Vic Cedarstaff designed the original slide in 1949, had it patented ten years later, and from that Arizona’s official neckwear was born.
If you find yourself out Wickenburg way, drop into the Desert Caballeros Western Museum and learn a thing or two about the history of the West. Hurry if you don’t want to miss Cowgirl Up! – this year’s exhibit runs until May 6th. If you do miss it, you will just have to mark it on your calendar for next year!