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Scottsdale to Commemorate 50 Years of Public Art: A Celebration of Creativity and Legacy

Scottsdale to Commemorate 50 Years of Public Art: A Celebration of Creativity and Legacy

Scottsdale Arts, in collaboration with the City of Scottsdale, is set to mark a significant milestone – the 50th anniversary of the city’s esteemed Permanent Art Collection. This momentous occasion will be celebrated at a special event scheduled for Thursday, October 26th, from 4 to 6 p.m., held at the recently renovated Scottsdale Civic Center.

The centerpiece of the celebration will be the unveiling of “The Desert’s Garden,” a captivating mosaic artwork masterfully crafted by Arizona-based artist Tammi Lynch-Forrest. Situated near Scottsdale City Hall, this breathtaking creation pays homage to the unique beauty of the desert landscape. Additionally, the event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Louise Nevelson’s “Windows to the West,” a pioneering large-scale artwork that holds the distinction of being the first of its kind in Scottsdale’s public art collection. These two remarkable pieces are conveniently located in close proximity to each other, enhancing the artistic ambiance of Scottsdale Civic Center.

Kati Ballares, the Director of Scottsdale Public Art, emphasized the significance of this event, stating, “This event will honor Scottsdale’s 50-year legacy of integrating public art into the building of our city. 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.”

In addition to celebrating these remarkable public artworks, the event will also acknowledge the 55th anniversary of Scottsdale City Hall, designating it as a historic landmark. Attendees can expect to be captivated by dance performances, live music, delectable food, and exciting giveaways.

The recently renovated Scottsdale Civic Center has garnered praise and recognition from various organizations, further solidifying its importance. The Arizona Parks & Recreation Association honored it with the prestigious “Outstanding Facility” designation, recognizing it as the best newly constructed facility of 2023 for populations exceeding 100,000. Furthermore, Engineering News-Record Southwest lauded Scottsdale Civic Center as the finest landscape and urban development project in the region, encompassing Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.

“Windows to the West,” originally titled “Atmosphere and Environments XVIII,” originally graced the southeast corner of Scottsdale City Hall near 75th Street. During the recent Civic Center renovations, the sculpture was temporarily placed in storage. However, with the opening of the Civic Center’s first phase in January, “Windows to the West” found its new home north of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. This relocation aligns more harmoniously with the sculpture’s name, “Windows to the West,” as it now faces the Civic Center’s West Paseo, a corridor extending westward to connect with the shops along Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale.

Wendy Raisanen, the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for Scottsdale Public Art, provided insight into the historical significance of “Windows to the West.” She shared that the sculpture marked the inception of Scottsdale’s permanent public art collection in the early 1970s. The Scottsdale Fine Arts Commission, in collaboration with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, commissioned the renowned American sculptor Louise Nevelson, then 73 years old, to create this remarkable piece for the newly constructed Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. This decision was a trailblazing one, considering the predominantly male-dominated field of public art at the time.

Raisanen also highlighted the influential figures behind this bold move, including Philip C. Curtis, the founder of what later became the Phoenix Art Museum, and Dorothy Fratt, whose work will be featured in a 2024 exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Another notable contributor to the commission was Katherine “Kax” Kierland Herberger, a prominent philanthropist in the arts and mother of the late Judd Herberger, who continued her legacy of arts philanthropy.

When Louise Nevelson visited Scottsdale to survey the site for her artwork, she expressed her appreciation, stating, “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.”

Scottsdale, Arizona Street Art

Interestingly, when “Windows to the West” was initially installed in 1973, it faced resistance from some Scottsdale residents who preferred a more traditional, western realism approach to art. Over time, however, it gained widespread acceptance and affection, eventually becoming the most beloved sculpture in the city’s collection during the late 1990s. It has also earned accolades in recent years, being recognized by Phoenix New Times as the “Best Permanent Public Art” in its annual Best of Phoenix awards.

In a letter to public art administrators in 1978, Louise Nevelson herself expressed her vision for the sculpture: “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.” Today, with its prominent placement near Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and SMoCA, “Windows to the West” finally realizes the artist’s vision.

In parallel with the iconic “Windows to the West,” a new public artwork has been commissioned for the reopening of the Scottsdale Civic Center, now simply known as Scottsdale Civic Center. The talented Arizona-based artist Tammi Lynch-Forrest is the creative force behind “The Desert’s Garden.” This colorful and intricately detailed mosaic wall, situated along a water feature at the southwest corner of Scottsdale City Hall, serves as a timeline depicting three eras of the Scottsdale area through its flora and fauna. It challenges misconceptions about the desert as a barren landscape by showcasing its vibrant and diverse ecosystem. Lynch-Forrest’s dedication to her craft is evident in the small, hand-crafted tiles, some no larger than a dime, that make up this expansive garden mosaic.

When Lynch-Forrest initially proposed this artwork, she had no idea it would find such a prominent place in the Civic Center. Overwhelmed by the beauty and significance of the Civic Center, she shared, “I was just blown away by how beautiful the Civic Center was and how much happens there. I’m beyond honored.”

Scottsdale, Arizona Street Art

The event on October 26th will commence at “Windows to the West,” featuring speakers and a captivating dance performance by The Movement Source Dance Company. Attendees will then move to the dedication of “The Desert’s Garden,” which will include additional speakers, live music by Bad Cactus Brass Band, and a delightful array of food and giveaways.

Scottsdale Civic Center boasts several other prominent public artworks, including Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture and George-Ann Tognoni’s figurative bronze pieces, “The Yearlings” and “Winfield Scott Memorial.”

For more information about this exciting event and to RSVP, visit
Come join us in celebrating 50 years of enriching Scottsdale’s cultural heritage.

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