"Beautiful" was the word that seemed to roll off everyone’s lips.
Necks were continually craned upward as residents took their first look at the giant white sails that soared overhead, the elevated stained glass walkways that shone at sunset and the 14,080 aluminum tiles that shimmered along the theater wall in Mesa.
On Friday night, the Mesa Arts Center was officially opened to the people.
"Every corner is full of art," gushed Nina Perkins, who came to the grand opening ceremony with her boyfriend and her mother. "I like art and I wanted to see what they did with it here. It’s just full of art."
Most in the crowd of 500 didn’t attend the center’s exclusive opening gala last week, which cost upward of $285 per ticket to see "Phantom of the Opera" star Michael Crawford.
Couples, families and groups of friends explored the galleries, theater lobbies, gift shop and grounds filled with niches of public art.
"I’m impressed. It’s very classy, sophisticated," said Liz Pierce of Mesa. "I hope it brings more people into the city."
Pierce admits she was a little doubtful of the outcome when the $98 million project was under construction.
"Especially when we heard the price tag," added husband Jim Pierce.
But the couple already have tickets to see the Broadway production "42nd Street" here in November.
Guests were ushered out of the lobbies at 7 p.m. to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony, which featured city officials and local arts patrons.
Local poet James Cervantes read an inaugural poem he wrote for this night, titled "Salvador Dali, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Quentin Tarantino visit the Mesa Arts Center."
Fireworks exploded once Mayor Keno Hawker and former Mayor Wayne Brown sliced through the giant red ribbon.
And all at once, the campus became a giant musical instrument as the Earth Harp concert began. The MASS Ensemble strung cables between the buildings overhead and plucked the strings to create a deep, resonating sound that captivated the crowd.
Jeremy Jones, the center’s architect team leader, was thrilled with the outcome. "It’s so wonderful to see people in our project," he said.