Perhaps it was 30 years ago, a school bus filled with 32 six-year-old, first grade students, 6 young mothers and 1 teacher rode to De Grazia Museum up on a mountainside. Only the teacher had been there before. The ride was a bit like waiting for Santa to arrive – gazing out the bus windows at neighborhoods, stores, gas stations – all places they’d never seen before. When suddenly, in the middle of the desert, there it was. It appeared to have just grown from the mountain, itself.
Driving up the mountain today, in 2009, was so different from the first drive there. Once a desert, empty of urban development, is now filled with houses, side-by-side climbing up the foothills, shopping malls at every intersection, bumper-to-bumper waiting for the red light to change. Once so empty, so quiet, so tranquil; now a busy rush.
A turn into a dusty, dirt path, into the desert, and there it stood — just as it did those many years ago. Rustic, adobe brick, old desert tree logs, a bumpy, uphill path to the entrance. And inside, the marvel of bright colors, the history of the people and times long ago – stories to be shared if one looked and listened.
Many small rooms filled with paintings of the places, the animals, the people, all here before us. There’s the basket-maker, the hoop dancers, dancing so swiftly it’s a blur of color. There’s the saguaro dancers, dancing around a large, tall saguaro. There’s a ballerina, en pointe. The horses racing by as if the wind is under their feet. There’s the Indian boy drummer, the lady at a sewing machine, and Indian children at play. There are windows filled with colorful glass, with the sun shining through. There’s the Merry Indian on her horse. There’s much more!
It’s a spiritual place of peace and grace. It’s a moment of magic in the Gallery in the Sun. The dignity and promise of prayer in the Mission of the Sun, with its dirt and stone floor, its open roof, the candles, the silence, is a sort of mystic magic, in itself.
The cactus-filled patio with some rare cactus ‘floors’ blooming, is a retreat to sit and rest.
The gift shop is filled with De Grazia reproductions and cards to mail and share. Children’s books of Indian stories tempt one to loiter longer. There are art books of De Grazia paintings and history, Indian turquoise jewelry, and Indian candles. It’s a happy place just to browse.
This is no place to hurry through. It’s a place and time to reflect on the past and appreciate – to appreciate the people whose vision and hard work built something so special and so enduring. If you visit once, it will call you back and you will come.
You will learn and wonder more about the times and people who came here before you.