We discover copper art in Clarkdale, Arizona

Usually when one plan goes awry, something more interesting comes along. Recently that more interesting something turned out to be the Arizona Copper Art Museum in historic Clarkdale, Arizona.

musuem sign

(What do think you would find in a copper art museum?)

See, we only discovered the Copper Museum because our jaunt along a scenic route to Sedona didn’t go exactly as planned. Our plan was to stop along the way for lunch and a stroll through the old-copper-mining-town-turned-art-enclave of Jerome, but a drive through town made it clear that everyone else in Arizona had the same idea that day. There were mobs of people crowding the sidewalks and not a parking place to be seen.

We continued on.

Soon highway signs indicated that another historic town awaited us right off the main highway, so we decided to check it out.

And that is how we ended up in Clarkdale.

A quick survey of what appeared to be the heart of historic Clarkdale yielded a bunch of very quiet historic buildings, an unexpectedly busy Mexican restaurant, and the Copper Art Museum.

downtown Clarkdale AZ street scene

(There had to be more vehicles in town than people!)

restored truck at the historic copper gas station in Clarkdale AZ

(You know you are in copper country when the historic gas station has copper siding.)

margarita and chips in Clarkdale AZ

(First things first.)

By the time we’d finished lunch I was ready to head out of town, but my husband suggested we take a closer look at the copper museum . . .

historic rail car with copper ore

(Copper ore on display.)

Built around the art of copper metalwork in all its forms, the Copper Art Museum has a broad scope. Want to know what copper ore looks like? There are examples. Want to know where copper is mined? There are maps. How it is mined? There are pictures . . . along with information on how it is formed into objects, the development of bronze (which requires copper), and the use of copper throughout history.

And that’s just the in the exhibit area for background information.

The museum’s real focus is objects made from copper — room after room of objects ranging from the mundane (copper plumbing) to the sacred (copper icons), from familiar household items (copper cooking pots) to unsettling military items (elegant vases made from expended shell casings) and absolutely everything in between.

copper ceiling at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Copper ceiling with religious designs.)

copper detail at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Detail on a distilling kettle.)

copper pan at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Copper pans for cooking and baking.)

kitchen ware at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(An especially fancy serving piece.)

architectural display at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Architectural details on display.)

glass bowl at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(A piece of art glass — probably with a copper glaze — is part of a growing collection of glass.)

copper cash register at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Cash register in the shop, but not in use!)

kitchen strainers at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Copper kitchen strainers hang from the ceiling.)

old-style kitchen at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(An example of an ancient kitchen.)

trench art at the Copper Art Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Vases carved from spent artillery shells.)

While this could be a little overwhelming and chaotic, most of the objects are neatly arranged into one of six exhibit areas:

  • Military art
  • Art and architecture
  • Religious art
  • Kitchenware
  • Drinkware
  • Distillery and winery

Cooper footprints inlaid into the floor guide you through the entire museum, and it’s worth following them as each room is likely to hold a surprise or two or ten or maybe more.

military arts at the Copper Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Trench art and more on exhibit in the military arts display.)

decorative arts at the Arizona Copper Musuem

(A variety of decorative arts on display.)

decorative arts at the Arizona Copper Musuem Clarkdale - ExplorationVacation.net

(architectural elements galore.)

kitchen display at the Copper Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

kitchen display at the Copper Museum Clarkdale AZ - ExplorationVacation.net

(Elements of a dream kitchen.)

tools in the distillery and wine room at the Arizona Copper Museum

(Vineyard tools decorate the walls in the distillery and wine room.)

copper stills in the distillery room at the Arizona Copper Museum

(Copper kettles in the distillery!)

The Copper Art Museum is largely the work of Drake Meinke, a man whose fondness for copper is, apparently, hereditary. Born into a family of Minnesota antique dealers, he began collecting at an early age and hasn’t stopped. His collection, combined with the collections of his family, makes up the bulk of the museum’s display.

Drake is usually at the museum (he may well be the one to greet you when you enter). If you see him, take the time to ask a few questions. He’s sure to have a story or two and there is no telling what treasures he may show you.

Copper Museum founder with a copper recording - ExplortionVacation.net

(That’s a an original copper master for a recording!)

After your visit, you’re guaranteed to start seeing copper like you’ve never seen it before.

The Arizona Copper Museum is located in the former Clarkdale High School right at the edge of the historic downtown. (From Highway 89A, follow the signs for the turn-off to Tuzigoot National Monument and historic downtown Clarkdale and Cottonwood.) The museum is open daily except for major holidays. The current admission fee is under $10.

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