Iconic Arizona venue hosting mesmerizing lunar exhibit that you have to see in person

Museum of the Moon will be at Desert Botanical Garden for one week only!

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PHOENIX (Desert Botanical Garden) – People have been fascinated by the moon (dare we say moonstruck?) since humans first looked up and saw it glowing in the night sky. It’s mysterious, inspiring, and romantic -- the stuff of poetry, mythology, symbolism, and science.

The moon has watched the world grow up and welcomed us when we broke free of Earth’s gravity and traveled into space. It’s something everybody on this planet shares, and now you can experience it in a unique way -- closer than most people ever will – at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

The Garden is hosting the Southwest debut of Museum of the Moon Feb. 7-14, and to say it’s stunning is a massive understatement. The real moon is nearly 240,00 miles away, but from Feb. 7-14, you’ll only have to look up a few feet.

“It really does look as though the moon has been plucked out of space and brought down to Earth,” said Laura Spalding Best, who was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to the Desert Botanical Garden.

(Luke Jerram and Desert Botanical Garden)

“Beautiful, imposing, simple and extraordinary”

Museum of the Moon is a three-dimensional sculpture created by UK artist Luke Jerram. He used extraordinarily detailed NASA satellite imagery to bring the moon to life here on Earth. It’s lit from within and will hover about 10 feet above the ground in the Garden’s spectacular Sunset Plaza. Dropping the moon in all its beauty into the remarkable Sonoran setting only the Desert Botanical Garden can provide is sure to produce an experience like no other. And it starts before you even turn off of Galvin Parkway.

“We’ve been really mindful of how we’re going to place it,” Best explained. “You’ll be able to see it as you drive up to the Garden; you will be able to see it from Galvin Parkway. As you enter, it’s presented very close to the entrance area at admissions, so you will be able to catch glimpses of it as you approach it. That is very much intended to be part of the experience -- that anticipation of walking up upon it.”

We all live under the watchful eye of the moon every minute of every day and night, but when you visit Museum of the Moon at Desert Botanical Garden, you can literally stand beneath the moon. Only astronauts have been closer to this thing of legends.

“One thing that I find particularly captivating and special about this is it is your chance to really view in three dimensions the dark side of the moon, something that we don’t have a chance to do,” Best said.

Giving people the opportunity to walk around and see the far side of the moon was one of Jerram’s goals.

“It looks completely different to the moon that we see from Earth,” he said.

Artist Luke Jerram said the idea for Museum of the Moon was inspired by the tides in his UK...
Artist Luke Jerram said the idea for Museum of the Moon was inspired by the tides in his UK home of Bristol.(Luke Jerram)

More than plants: The Garden is a unique art gallery

The Desert Botanical Garden is known for its art exhibitions. It has hosted several Chihuly exhibits, and Playing With Stars, which features large-scale sculptures by Rotraut, is on display now through May 14. But Museum of the Moon is different. It’s meant to be experienced. Like the moon reflects the sun’s light, Museum of Moon reflects what visitors bring with them.

You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” That’s not the case with Museum of the Moon. The pictures are incredible, of course, but the display’s true impact comes from experiencing it.

“I think that it’s activated by visitors. I think you are the final piece when you are looking at Museum of the Moon and are interpreting it in your own way, going through your personal history and childhood memories,” Best said, speaking from her artist’s heart. She’s an award-winning painter. But you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate and enjoy the Museum of the Moon at Desert Botanical Garden. You simply have to be human.

“The moon is one of those universal symbols of our humanity,” Best said. “It has that big, powerful connection to humanity that everybody understands. Everybody has seen the moon.”

But not like this.

Museum of the Moon on display in Womad, UK
Museum of the Moon on display in Womad, UK(Luke Jerram and Hello Content)

“Someone has stolen the moon”

One visitor described the installation as “beautiful, imposing, simple and extraordinary.” Another called it “exquisitely delivered.”

“It looks like someone has stolen the moon, shrunken it down, and put it into a room, and it’s just there, sort of floating,” Jerram told BBC Radio 4 not long after unveiling his work. “It looks like it has all this amazing texture – every last crater and valley all defined in perfect detail.”

“I thought it was absolutely mesmerizing. It was amazing to be able to be in the same room as the moon,” one man said after seeing the exhibit in the UK. “It takes your breath away,” another visitor agreed.

Incredible photos of Museum of the Moon from all over the world

When Jerram started work on his lunar masterpiece, he was looking at the power and strength of the moon. This (relatively) little rock orbiting the Earth exerts significant force, pushing and pulling the water that covers more than 70% of our planet. The moon constantly changes our landscape. That’s no small feat. And in Jerram’s UK home of Bristol, the changes between high and low tide are dramatic. Bristol has the second-highest tidal range in the world.

“The gravitational pull of the moon is making that happen,” Jerram said.

The moon also is what holds Earth in place. It anchors us, and not just metaphorically. Scientists believe that without the moon’s gravity, Earth could tilt wildly on its axis, leading to potentially cataclysmic weather patterns.

“That power is what you feel when you see the sculpture in person,” Best said.

But it’s not just that raw power.

As Jerram’s Museum of the Moon has traveled the world, the experience of those who see it has become, in many cases, intensely personal and even viscerally emotional. The moon does that.

You’ll be moonstruck

Jerram commissioned Dan Jones to compose a unique piece to accompany his astounding and captivating sculpture and create a complete sensory experience.

And Desert Botanical Garden is building on that with a slate of additional activities designed specifically with Museum of the Moon in mind. There will be unique pop-up hands-on activities for children and family all week, lunar-inspired tales from local storytellers at Bar Flies: Under the Moon on Feb. 8, Family Night on Feb. 10, Couples Collage Night on Feb. 11, as well as Moon Soundings Gong Meditation, Lunar Aroma Yoga, and a Musuem of the Moon Night Photography class. In addition, the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration is loaning the Garden its lunar rover, Tycho, the weekend Museum of Moon is on display, including Family Night. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn more about the moon and the technology, some of which is engineered right here in Arizona, that’s teaching us more about it every day.

Jerram used extraordinarily detailed NASA satellite imagery to bring the moon to life here on...
Jerram used extraordinarily detailed NASA satellite imagery to bring the moon to life here on Earth.(Luke Jerram)

Iconic Arizona

If you’ve never been to the Desert Botanical Garden, you’re missing out on an Arizona gem. It’s an icon of the Southwest – a must-see for locals and visitors alike. Museum of the Moon is the perfect event for your first visit.

Museum of the Moon is free with Desert Botanical Garden admission. It’s only at the Garden for a week, so you’ll want to buy tickets early at DBG.org. The Garden is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. General admission is $24.95-$29.95 for adults and $14.95-$16.95 for children 3 to 17. Entries are timed to ensure that everyone can enjoy all the Garden has to offer.

"The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to."
"The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to."(Canva and Arizona's Family)