SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Scottsdale Public Art will celebrate the oldest and newest works in the city’s Permanent Art Collection with a special event from 5 to 6:30 p.m. April 13 at the newly renovated Scottsdale Civic Center.
The event will feature the dedication of “The Desert’s Garden,” a new mosaic artwork installed by Arizona-based artist Tammi Lynch-Forrest near Scottsdale City Hall, and a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Louise Nevelson’s “Windows to the West,” the first large-scale artwork in the city’s collection. The two artworks are conveniently located just across the lawn from each other at Scottsdale Civic Center.
“This event will honor Scottsdale’s 50-year legacy of integrating public art into the building of our city,” said Kati Ballares, the new director of Scottsdale Public Art. “We know our residents and visitors appreciate how the city is so intentionally designed, but few people actually know that Scottsdale Public Art has played an ever-increasing role in this process since the early 1970s. The opening of the renovated Scottsdale Civic Center and the completion of our newest public artwork is a great opportunity to celebrate and tell this story.”
For many years, “Windows to the West” — more formally titled “Atmosphere and Environments XVIII” — stood at the southeast corner of Scottsdale City Hall, near 75th Street. During the recent renovations of the outdoor spaces at the Civic Center, “Windows to the West” was placed in storage. Shortly before the opening of the Civic Center’s first phase in January, “Windows to the West” returned, but in a new location north of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. This new placement is more appropriate for a sculpture nicknamed “Windows to the West,” as it faces the Civic Center’s West Paseo, a corridor stretching westward to connect with the shops along Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale.
Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections and exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art, said “Windows to the West” started the city of Scottsdale’s permanent public art collection in the early 1970s when the Scottsdale Fine Arts Commission raised money, in concert with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, to commission the most esteemed female sculptor in the United States, Louise Nevelson (aged 73 at the time), for what was then the new Scottsdale Civic Center Mall.
“It was a bold move for the early 1970s, when nearly all public art in the country was created by men, and the other considered American sculptors for the project were men,” Raisanen said. “Nevelson was a real trailblazer in her art career and life. As a young artist at Scottsdale High School, I saw her as a role model and icon.”
Among the commission members making that bold move were two prominent Arizona-based artists: Philip C. Curtis, founder of what became Phoenix Art Museum, and Dorothy Fratt, whose work will be shown in an upcoming exhibition at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Another member of that commission was Katherine "Kax" Kierland Herberger, a prominent philanthropist to the arts and mother of the late Judd Herberger, who continued his mother’s philanthropic legacy alongside his wife, Billie Jo Herberger, in recent decades.
When Nevelson came to Scottsdale to survey the site for her work, she said, “In a way it is fortunate that Scottsdale has attracted people who are so mature and realize how much it will mean to the environment to have good art.”
However, when “Windows to the West” was first installed in 1973, there were some vocal Scottsdale residents who didn’t appreciate the contemporary nature of the artwork, preferring western realism instead, Raisanen said. Eventually, many residents came to love “Windows to the West,” naming it the most popular sculpture of the collection in the late 1990s. It has also been recognized in recent years by Phoenix New Times as the “Best Permanent Public Art” in the publication’s annual Best of Phoenix awards.
Nevelson wrote to public art administrators in 1978, saying, “I would like to reconfirm that ‘Atmosphere and Environments’ was created for a more enclosed mall situation in which a continual flow of people would interact with the sculpture to complete my envisioned environment. The interactions of people with my work is the grace by which it lives a vital existence. The mall placement with its proximity to the vitality of the Fine Arts Center is also meaningful.”
Raisanen said she believes the sculpture’s new location — even closer to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and SMoCA, at a prominent entrance to the Civic Center — finally fulfills the artist’s vision.
‘The Desert’s Garden’
Just as “Windows to the West” was an artistic highlight of the original Scottsdale Civic Center Mall in the 1970s, a new public artwork was commissioned for the reopening of what is now simply called Scottsdale Civic Center this year. Arizona-based artist Tammi Lynch-Forrest is in the process of creating a colorful and detailed mosaic wall along a water feature at the southwest corner of Scottsdale City Hall.
Titled “The Desert’s Garden,” Lynch-Forrest’s work will also act as a timeline for the Scottsdale area, portraying three eras of the land through the plants and animals present. The artist said there are often misconceptions about the desert being a barrent place, but this artwork highlights all the living things that make it a “desert garden.” Some of the tiles creating the expansive garden mosaic are smaller than a dime, and nearly all were hand-crafted by the artist.
When Lynch-Forrest first submitted a proposal for the artwork, the artist didn’t realize it would be in such a prominent place.
“I was just blown away by how beautiful the Civic Center was and how much happens there,” Lynch-Forrest said. “I’m beyond honored.”
The April 13 event will begin at “Windows to the West,” with speakers and a dance performance, before moving to “The Desert’s Garden” dedication, featuring additional speakers, live music, food and giveaways.
Other prominent public artworks located at Scottsdale Civic Center include Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture and George-Ann Tognoni’s figurative bronze works “The Yearlings” and “Winfield Scott Memorial.”
Learn more about the event and the artworks at ScottsdalePublicArt.org.
Through its partnership with the city of Scottsdale, the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts 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 600,000 participants annually. In conjunction with the City of Scottsdale, we also host more than 200,000 people annually on our campus through a robust rentals program.
SCOTTSDALE PUBLIC ART
The mission of Scottsdale Public Art is to make Scottsdale one of the most desirable communities in the country in which to live, work and visit by incorporating art and design projects throughout. In 1985, the city of Scottsdale established Scottsdale Public Art with the goal to enhance the quality of life for its residents and visitors. Since then, more than 100 permanent and temporary public artworks have been commissioned throughout the community. Scottsdale’s program and projects have won local, regional and national awards.
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