Whether you’re passing through the CityScape outdoor mall on Central Avenue and Washington Street this month, or you’re one of the thousands of annual visitors to the CitySkate ice rink, you’ll want to pay special attention to the sights and sounds around you. Through Sunday January 6, a group of public art installations by Phoenix-based creators will punctuate the annual holiday decorations.
The installations have come to life through PhxArt Project, a Phoenix Art Museum-led series of public art pieces, performances, and happenings. The second-annual PhxArt Project: CityScape showcases the work of three interdisciplinary Phoenix-based artists: Sam Fresquez, who created a mirrored plexiglass sculpture inspired by a passage from “The New Colossus,” the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to the United States; Kenaim Al-Shatti, whose site-specific video installation is best viewed after sunset; and Tessa Windt, who led participants in the Museum's Arts Engagement Program participants to craft large banners using textiles and ink.
CityScape first became interested in collaborating with PhxArt Project in 2017. Sara Anderson, CityScape’s Director of Marketing, contacted the Museum in 2017 after seeing what the Museum had done for the music festivals FORM and VivaPHX, from providing performers in experimental art-object costumes and interactive art installations to live storytelling by The Whole Story. Anderson connected with Lani Hudson, the museum’s audience and outreach marketing manager, to discuss the possibility of commissioning pieces by Phoenix-based artists to CityScape’s holiday landscape, which is when they receive the most visitors.
“It’s inspiring being in the center of such a creative community and so close to such a forward-thinking art institution like the Phoenix Art Museum,” Anderson says. “We are proud to provide them, and these artists, with a platform to showcase their work in front of an audience that might not see it otherwise.”
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For the Museum, the partnership provides a welcome opportunity for experimentation. “PhxArt Projects are certainly outside of the traditional programming box. They allow us to connect with our community beyond the walls of our Museum, and as a result, people get to know who we are and what we do. We love connecting with the community in unconventional ways, and we are grateful for the chance to meet those community members who don’t know us yet,” says Amada Cruz, the Sybil Harrington Director and Chief Executive Officer of Phoenix Art Museum.
As Hudson, the driving force behind the project, says, “This is a totally new way of making art happen – commissioning art for a commercial space via the Museum, and bringing artists into the fold. It’s a completely different experience for people to be greeted with art when they’re not expecting it. It can be jarring, but I like the chance of stumbling upon something you weren’t expecting.”
Hudson also highlights the importance of CityScape as a public art venue. “This is such a hub of activity, and art is an important part of city life and our economy. Having the Museum get outside its own walls is huge. We’ve learned a lot from being at CityScape, especially how much work we have to do in helping people feel comfortable around art. More often than not, people are interested but afraid to ask.” She also says that if you see art and don’t know how to react to it, don’t worry. “All you need is an open mind. Just be curious, and have a willingness to consider new things.”
CitySkate's day-by-day schedule is available here. Entrance to the installations is free. Museum visitors can pick up a $5 off coupon at the museum's visitor services desk for CitySkate now through January 6 or while supplies last. One coupon per person.