Press Release

October 2, 2019

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019

MEDIA CONTACT: Virginia McInnis | [email protected] | 480-874-4663

Mystery in the Museum
Mystery in the Museum: The Cryptic Caper on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Photo credit Charles Darr.

Mystery in the Museum at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is an Original Smash Hit

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona ­– Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) has found success with its popular and repeatedly sold out event Mystery in the Museum.

Mystery in the Museum, conceived by Julie Ganas, curator of programming, was inspired by the growing trend of escape rooms. Ganas saw these events as a great way to bring a new, immersive program to the Museum with an educational twist.

“I thought it would be a unique way to create a captive audience and invite new communities into the Museum. Over the years, it has become a collaborative process with my colleagues who help with all stages of planning and execution,” said Ganas.

Since its inception in 2018, the Museum has created five different mysteries, not including four additional encore events and one private engagement. Every Mystery in the Museum has sold out bringing more than 500 people into the Museum for these unique events.

“We are truly trying to make the Museum and the exhibitions more accessible to people. We want to reach out to various demographics and create an environment that is accessible, as well as design an event that is fun, light-hearted and art centric,” said Carrie Tovar, registrar at SMoCA, who also assists in creating the storylines for Mystery events.

“Mystery in the Museum is an important event because it invites a diverse audience to the Museum for an art experience driven by a narrative. Participants become very involved with the story and it engages critical thinking centered on art,” said Ganas.

Each of the mysteries is unique to the series of exhibitions the Museum has at the time. Mystery in the Museum takes a step beyond the typical escape room or mystery dinner theatre by inviting participants to look closer at the artworks on display and read object labels to find clues and decipher codes. Additionally, every season of exhibitions offer a unique narrative and theme that participants can immerse themselves in and become an essential part of the mystery. During the 2017–18 exhibition “Wild Thing: Adventures with the Permanent Collection” participants became bird watchers and had to identify the birds in several artworks that would lead to the next clue. Oftentimes the Museum receives cooperation from an artist to use their work in a “spot the difference” activity, where Museum staff alters an image of the artwork by removing or adding components.

“When we write the riddles and the story, we are trying to think of the best way for the participants to look at and pay attention to details in the art. It is a sneaky and fun way to have the audience engage with artworks that they might not otherwise come to the Museum to see,” said Tovar.

Upcoming fall event (subject to change):

Mystery in the Museum: The Curator’s Conundrum

Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 6 p.m.

Pair $30, Individual $20

Gather a group of your sharpest friends and join us for an evening filled with curious puzzles, brainteasers and riddles as another mystery unfolds in the Museum! Cash bar throughout the evening and light bites to follow.

Through its partnership with the City of Scottsdale, the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts (formerly known as Scottsdale Cultural Council) creates diverse, inspired arts experiences and educational opportunities that foster active, lifelong community engagement with the arts. Since its founding in 1987, Scottsdale Arts has grown into a regionally and nationally significant, multi-disciplinary arts organization offering an exceptional variety of programs through four acclaimed branches — Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), Scottsdale Public Art and Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation — serving more than 400,000 participants annually.

Founded in 1999, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) explores the best of contemporary art, architecture and design. Global in its focus, the Museum is a unique and vital cultural resource for the Southwest, serving local audiences as well as visitors from the United States and abroad. Designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, SMoCA’s minimalist building (an ingenious renovation of a former movie theater) has four galleries for showcasing changing exhibitions and works from the Museum’s collection, along with SMoCA Lounge, a living, functional art installation and space for community engagement. The Museum presents a wide variety of educational programs and special events for adults and families, including lectures, readings, performances, docent-led tours, workshops and classes. SMoCA also features an outdoor sculpture garden housing James Turrell’s “Knight Rise,” one of the renowned artist’s public skyspaces, and “Scrim Wall,” a monumental curtain of translucent glass panels by James Carpenter Design Associates. The Museum’s retail store, [email protected], offers classic design objects and furnishings, contemporary jewelry, art and architecture books, and imaginative gifts for all occasions.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
[email protected]


Tuesday – Wednesday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Thursday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Closed Mondays and major holidays

Admission: $10 adults, $7 students, seniors (65+) and veterans; free for members and children under 15

Free every Thursday and every second Saturday of the month

MEDIA: For interviews, digital images or additional information, please contact:

Virginia McInnis
Public Relations Specialist
Scottsdale Arts

Phone: 480-874-4663
Email: [email protected]