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Artist Cecil Balmond to Design New Shade Structure at Mesa Arts Center

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Ten years old might sound way too young to have a facelift, but it isn't if you're Mesa Arts Center. This week, MAC announced that internationally renowned artist and designer Cecil Balmond has been selected to create a shade structure that will connect the Mesa Arts Center's North Plaza with Main Street in downtown Mesa.

See also: 6 Art Exhibitions to See in Metro Phoenix This Summer

Currently, Balmond splits his time between teaching architecture and running a design studio. He holds a chair at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design as the Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture, and he is principal of Balmond Studio, a design firm that has offices in four major cities around the world. After a public call for submissions, MAC jurors chose Balmond's design from a final running of three artists.

"Balmond's design for the shade sculpture, called The Cloud, will create enhanced pedestrian interest, particularly given its location opposite a major new Light Rail station and across the street from Mesa's City Hall," says Cindy Ornstein, executive director of Mesa Arts Center and director of arts and culture for the City of Mesa, via press release. "The gathering place and the pedestrian activity will support growth of public activity on the adjacent blocks, and extended visits to downtown Mesa by thousands of MAC patrons."

The Cloud will be brought to life in alignment with the unique existing architecture and landscape of MAC. For starters, the fabric used in this structure will match the center's existing shade sails. Additional features of the design include columns angled to create an inhabitable field and glass oculi with nighttime lighting.

The North Plaza re-build (centered around the shade structure) is part of MAC's 21st Century Café Society project, which also includes the Alliance Pavilion Stage, which was completed last year, and an interactive piece of public art that is still under development. Funding for the project comes primarily from an ArtPlace America Grant for creative placemaking, which was awarded to MAC in the amount of $300,000 last summer.

Once Balmond's design is half complete, it will be open to feedback from the community. At that time, MAC will also hold a fundraising campaign to generate the extra funds needed for the North Plaza renovation. It is anticipated that the project will cost $400,000 overall with design, engineering, construction documents, fabrication, and installation.

"The aim of the sculpture is to surprise and inspire, in addition to providing a cool place to take cover and for visitors to meet and collaborate," Balmond says via press release. "I wanted to create an environment that changes your perception of space and is completely capable of being used for different purposes, in alignment with Mesa Arts Center's needs."

Dates for the project's completion have not yet been announced.

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