Truth be told, the coolest part about Canal Convergence 2015 was seeing people of all walks of life converge along the canal and surrounding parts to explore works of art and other cultural gems. For four days, from February 26 to March 1, the streets of downtown Scottsdale came alive with a steady stream of locals, tourists and part-timers who split the year between Arizona and colder parts of the country.
Art galleries with open doors and the new Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West, all located within walking distance of the event held along the Scottsdale Waterfront, added to the pulse of Scottsdale Public Art's four-day celebration. We hit the canal early and often, and found many cool offerings. These were our favorites.
The Art Forge by Toby Fraley
Tucked between a bevy of white tents, we spotted the art bot with the vintage green vibe. Toby Fraley's The Art Forge, which puts a fun twist on the ways mass production, profit motive, and digital culture impact the contemporary arts scene, was our favorite find this time around.
Folks drop four quarters into a slot and insert a small wooden plank provided by the artist, then watch a series of three windows as The Art Forge does its work. One shows a stream of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram fodder that influences the custom art piece that eventually pops out the other end. The others reveal cutting and painting rooms, smaller than your average shoebox, where the planks get transformed into unique objects d'art. Artist-provided quarters saved the day for those who showed up coinless.
We saw several of the pieces that popped out of The Art Forge like items from a vending machine -- including a pair of teddy bears transposed over a galaxy and a vintage blue Motel 8 sign set against a bland gray horizon. The Art Forge was co-commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art and ASU Emerge, so you'll have another chance to see it during ASU's event this Friday, March 6.
TOER: To-Go Lid Division by Shirley "Mimi" Jardine
We spotted the outdoor office for local artist Mimi Jardine's The Office of Environmental Responsibility, which consists of a simple table and two folding chairs, on a lush patch of grass that runs alongside the canal between the Marshall Way and Soleri Bridges. But most of the time, Jardine was out and about, donning white lab coat and clear protective gloves as she gathered bits of litter and playfully encouraged festival-goers to do the same.
Jardine pushed her shopping cart along canal pathways, inviting others to turn in bits of trash from pesky to-go cup lid to stray bits of paper or string. Those who did were asked to complete a simple form, then tape their submission to the form. They'll be rewarded down the road with a postcard from the artist. We happened on a turquoise piece of string, happily did our paperwork and left with a TOER sticker designed to look like a white plastic to-go lid. We'll be looking for that string down the road as Jardine transforms all this trash into of artwork.
My Your Our Water by Erin V. Sotak
Local artist Erin V. Sotak spent Canal Convergence riding her blue and white trike along the canal, engaging citizens in dialogue about the wise use of water and their own water-related experiences. Intrigued by her white jumpsuit and helmet, people often paused to ask Sotak about her project hear her take on water conservation and usage.
Cool Canal Convergence offerings included her trio of words (MY, YOUR and OUR) floating atop the canal between the Marshall and Soleri Bridges, and nighttime projections of water-related images gathered by Sotak via her website. She's still looking for photos, so folks can continue to send their water pics her way. Sotak suggests folks also explore the Change the Course website, which presents strategies for sustaining a stable climate.
Miss Fire by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre
When a pair of dancers donning costumes featuring lavender tulle infused with pale purple lights started moving through the Soleri Plaza Saturday night, dozens of people spanning several generations circled around to watch. One stacked hollow blue and orange cubes created by artist Joy Holland, then made them her vertical stage. Another spent time in floor work, laying inside a rectangular cube for a time, then lying still underneath it. Soon they danced together along the Soleri Bridge, moving slowly and gracefully under a portion of local artist Saskia Jordá's Migration. They performed again on Sunday under overcast skies that made for a delightful backdrop to their artistry.
The Pool by Jen Lewin
In a pocket of grass bordering the Soleri Plaza, people young and old walked, skipped, and jumped across discs about the size of your average hubcaps. Lewin placed the disks in three circular groupings, so there was plenty of space for merriment and movement. All 106 disks inspired by Australian tide pools were created with pressure-activated lights that glow in assorted colors as people make their way across them. Think neon shades of purple, pink, orange, and blue that look they were poured from a fresh pitcher of Kool-Aid.
Water Logged Storytellers
Those who snagged tickets before they sold out got to spend Friday night on the Soleri Plaza listening to readers sharing mostly water-related tales during the Water Logged storytelling event presented by Scottsdale Public Art and Phoenix New Times. Seeing event sponsors Billie Jo and Judd Herberger in the lively audience that night was a treat, as was listening to stories not for the faint of heart. Think full bladder on the freeway, sewage in the basement, cruise meets hurricane, and more. Laughter marked the evening, and we all left with a new perspective on little white mice.
Public Art Bike Tour
The bike tour that departed from Canal Convergence Saturday morning included stops to see several works of public art -- including Water Mark, Copper Falls, and Watering the Desert. We especially enjoyed watching Alabama artist Christopher Fennell answer questions when more than a dozen bikers stopped to see the Industrial Pipe Wave he's close to completing along McDonald Drive near the Cattle Track Art Compound.
It comprises pipes taken from metro Phoenix buildings no longer in use, which Fennell has shaped into a wave-like structure while standing atop wooden scaffolding with welding equipment in hand. Nearby riders spotted three benches crafted of recycled pipes. Each has curved lines mirroring those of nearby desert plants, which makes Fennel's work one of new favorites in the ever-expanding Scottsdale Public Art collection.
A few more fun finds
Other cool Canal Convergence offerings included live music performed on both bridges, Joy Holland's stackable art cubes that doubled as seating and dance prop, Karrie Hovey's colorful blooms installed atop and beside the canal, and Saskia Jorda's migrating birds.
The Scottsdale Waterfront continues to be the perfect canvas for playful artists and community members. We're eager to see what awaits us during the future convergences of arts and culture along the canal.
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Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.