Maturango: small museum, big impact

Part 3 in a series of the MacGregor family’s adventures finding summer recreation in the Indian Wells Valley

Maturango: small museum, big impactBy CHRISTINA MACGREGOR, News Review Correspondent

Sometimes it’s the littlest gems that shine the brightest.

The Maturango Museum was founded in 1962, and since then it has been a wonderful cultural and educational resource to Ridgecrest residents and those who visit the area.

It showcases the natural and cultural history of the Upper Mojave Desert and serves as an information center for Death Valley, the Northern Mojave Desert and other locales along the Highway 395 and 178 corridors. Basically, if you have questions relating to the area, this is where you go for answers.

As a part of its summer educational outreach, the museum is also hosting activities for all ages in addition to the permanent exhibits on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. In the past few weeks, there were art classes (for ages 3 and up) celebrating Henri Matisse and an Andean Textiles Day.

The two-day Matisse class was $31.50 (with live scan fee) per child. The price included art supplies and lessons, but parents were expected to provide a snack for their children. Fawn Martinez, with help from members of the Docent League of the Maturango Museum, was the instructor of the class.

I had my children Ariadne and Dominic take the class, since I figured that they would get the most out of the instruction. Matisse is well known for being part of the fauvism period, so I was intrigued to see how that would translate to children’s art. The first day, the children did multiple paintings based on Matisse’s paintings “The Cat with Red Fish,” “The Goldfish” and “Icarus.” Some children tried to create exact copies of the paintings, while others created more interpretive versions. It was fun to see the personalities of my children come out in their artwork.

During the second day of class, the children cut out scraps of paper to create art similar to Matisse’s Cut Out artwork in his last decade. His piece “The Snail” was a point of inspiration. The variety of ideas and artwork that the children came up with that day was very impressive, as well as the idea that such a simple technique could create beautiful artwork.

Something wonderful about the museum art classes is that children can participate in whatever level that they were at, and create something beautiful.

My son is on the autism spectrum, and struggles with fine motor skills, such as writing letters and coloring within the lines. However, as he was painting, I could see that he really enjoyed himself. I loved and appreciated the artwork that he came up with.

Another wonderful activity — for the children and adults alike — was the “Andean Textiles Day.” There were presentations and videos about artists, sites and sounds of Peru and Bolivia. Child and adult “mini workshops” included spinning wool, making tassels and pompoms and learning various weaving techniques.

Also during that time period was a “Clothroads Trunk Show and Tell.” My children and I attended this portion of the event, and we had a wonderful time looking through all of the textile weavings and knitted goods for sale.

After we made our purchases, we toured the rest of the museum grounds outside. My kiddos loved seeing the planets in the long row, the sundial that tells the time of day with your shadow by standing on the correct month and the lizards running around between exhibits. It was a relaxing and fun experience for my family.

The museum is open every day except for major holidays. Fees to view the exhibits and art gallery are $5 per adult, $3 for ages 55 and older, and free for members. The museum is also free for active-duty military and those younger than 18. Admission is free to everyone on the second Saturday of every month, so the next two free dates in the summer are July 13 and Aug. 10. The gift shop and information area are open to the public for free during those same hours.

Upcoming art class dates and artists are July 16 and 18 — Yayoi Kusama, July 23 and 25 — Andy Warhol, and Aug. 6 and 8 — Jackson Pollock. Each art class needs a minimum of eight children, with a maximum of 15 children.

All classes take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and they are $31.50 per class. To sign up for the art classes, go to:

For more information, including calendar and other museum questions, call 760-375-6900 or go to

Pictured: The MacGregor children take a breather on the Elva Younkin Seat of Knowledge, located on the museum grounds and named for a former curator — Photo by Christina MacGregor

Story First Published: 2019-06-28