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BEST PUBLIC WORKS AS PUBLIC ART Phoenix 2005 - Standpipes in the Maple Ash Neighborhood, Tempe

The folks in the Maple Ash Neighborhood Association have one heck of a pipe dream. Over the past two years, the inhabitants of the sylvan residential area located just west of Arizona State University have mixed a deluge of grant money from the City of Tempe with the torrential creativity of Valley artists Nina Solomon, Ruben Valenzuela, and Chris Rowley in order to change two of the monolithic irrigation standpipes that dot their district from graffiti-tagged eyesores to lush eye candy. Both of the cylinder-shaped concrete constructions, which control the irrigation system flooding their yards monthly, have been covered over with an earth-toned mosaic montage of river rocks, ceramic tiles, and metalwork.

Each work is separately themed, as well as sharing an ample offering of plant and water imagery symbolizing the role both have played in their stomping grounds. The first piece, located at Ninth Street and Maple Avenue, is dedicated to the architecture unique to the homes in the immediate vicinity, with earthenware representations of windows, doors, picket fences, and a curlicue of wrought iron crowning the top.

The second, at 13th Street and Ash Avenue, is a mini-museum of the canal system of the Valley, featuring tiles imprinted with historic photos of swimming in drainage ditches and anecdotes about hunting. There are also seats made from carved-up pipes, as well as a stream-shaped landscaped path. MANA's organizers are planning to redecorate most of the neighborhood's standpipes and keep the creative juices flowing. Other neighborhoods should take note.

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