More than 300 people are expected to descend on metro Phoenix during early November for the 25th International Sculpture Conference, which includes an assortment of workshops, gallery visits, panels, and studio visits. The conference is held November 4 to 7 and centered on a “New Frontiers in Sculpture” theme. It will introduce attendees to arts and culture destinations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe in addition to providing a diverse lineup of professional development opportunities.
This is the first time the conference has been held in the American Southwest, giving attendees a chance to experience art and architecture in the context of desert landscapes. During the course of four days, they can enjoy four parties, 14 conference sessions, 16 optional trips, 30 speakers, and more than 50 museums, galleries, and studios. Such programming spans a total of six days, from November 3 to November 8.
Browsing through the conference schedule is like reading a who’s who list of Arizona artists working in sculpture, and there will be an array of arts and culture experiences attendees will take in while they’re here. It makes a nice bucket list for locals eager to spend more time exploring arts and culture close to home.
Conference-goers get to see plenty of art while they’re here — taking tours of Kevin Berry’s South Mountain Studios, the ASU graduate student studios at Grant Street Studios, several artist studios located at Bentley Projects, and the Cattle Track Arts Compound in Scottsdale where artists including Fritz Scholder, Philip Curtis, and Louise Nevelson once lived and worked. Other tour options include Taliesin West in Scottsdale created by Frank Lloyd Wright and Cosanti created by Paolo Soleri.
They’ll take a Phoenix Public Art Walking Tour with staff from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture — which includes works by Paul Deeb, Jack Mackie, Janet Echelman, Louise Bourgeouis, Tom Otterness, Isaiah Zagar, and others. A Scottsdale Public Art Walking Tour led by Donna Isaac, Director of Scottsdale Public Art, features several works on the Civic Center Mall and Bruce Munro’s BLOOM (not yet installed) at the Scottsdale Waterfront and has already sold out.
An Artist Studio Tours introducing participants to artists working in sculpture, installation, painting, and drawing is also sold out, as is "Desire Lines: Women Walking as Making." During the latter, participants will join Angela Ellsworth, Adriene Jenik, and Heather Lineberry on a participatory walk from the Museum of Walking to artist Jody Pinto’s Papago Park City Boundary Project — where they’ll discuss women artists who have “used walking as a way to create political, poetic, and environmental works.”
Following that discussion, Postcommodity, an artist collective whose work was recently exhibited at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, will provide an overview of its most recent work, which is titled Repellant Fence. They’ll also share lessons learned during eight years working on the project, addressing topics such as navigating borders, developing partnerships and interdisciplinary collaborations, community self-determination, and more.
Early risers can experience James Turrell’s Air Apparent Skyspace located on Arizona State University's Tempe campus, or his Knight Rise Skyspace located at SMoCA. There’s a night viewing of the Scottsdale Skyspace, too — during an evening that includes mixers at both SMoCA and art foundry Bollinger Atelier located in Tempe. Another night conference-goers can enjoy a Sunset Horse Trail Ride and Cowboy Dinner on South Mountain.
One night they head to Bentley Gallery for an exhibition of small-scale sculpture by ISC members and conference attendees. Another night they hit Step Gallery at Grant Street Studios (where Mary Bates Neubauer will be recognized for her 2015 ISC Educator Award), then a new Bruce Munro installation at Lisa Sette Gallery — before exploring both the Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue arts districts. Saturday night’s closing reception takes place at the David and Gladys Wright House in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix.
Of course, they’re coming not only to experience arts and culture but also to take advantage of professional development opportunities including four workshops happening on ASU’s Tempe campus: Hands-On Neon with James White; 3D Body Scanning and Prototyping with Dan Collins; Textile Construction and Structures with Erika Hanson; and Arduino Controlled Drawing Machine with Eric Brunvand, Hilary Harp, and Paul Stout.
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Plenty of panels fill out the conference agenda — including "Visionary Artists Navigating Cultural Geographies: An Introduction to the State of Arizona" moderated by Greg Esser, Director for the Desert Initiative at ASU Art Museum and featuring panelists Roberto Bedoya, Kade Twist, and Amada Cruz, who joined the Phoenix Art Museum as director in February. Other panel topics include electronic sculptures and border interventions.
Conference organizers note that content is “geared toward artists, arts administrators, educators, museum staff, curators, students, and patrons.” Membership in the New Jersey-based International Sculpture Center isn’t required but members do pay lower registration fees to attend the conference. Attendees must be at least 18 years old, and student rates are available. Some events are included with registration, but others involve additional cost.
The official conference hotel is the Hyatt Regency Phoenix, which is where trolleys to various conference events originate. Conference materials suggest additional arts and culture destinations attendees may want to visit, including the Heard Museum and Desert Botanical Garden. Those who head to Shemer Art Center can enjoy two exhibitions curated by ISC conference participants: "Aesthetic Alchemy" curated by Hilary Harp and "Two Years Outdoors" curated by Mary Neubauer. Both will feature sculptures in diverse media created by Arizona artists.
The 25th annual International Sculpture Conference takes place from November 4 through 7. Registration is open through September 30. Costs range from $100 to $650 based on membership in the ISC, whether one's a companion of a member, and whether attendees are students. Costs increase as the conference date approaches. For more information on the conference, visit the International Sculpture Center website.