Pete Deise Just Created Phoenix's First Shipping Container Sculpture

Randy Slack
Pete Deise working to shape metal spirals cut from a shipping container.
Maybe you’ve seen Phoenix artist Pete Deise sporting a pink hardhat lately. He’s been spending a lot of time at the corner of First and Garfield streets, decked out in safety gear while transforming a shipping container into a giant work of art.

The sculpture is part of a marketplace made entirely of shipping containers. It’s called The Churchill, after the Evans Churchill neighborhood where it’s located. The marketplace is set to open later this year, and will include both retail and food offerings. But the sculpture's big reveal is happening tonight, May 4, during the First Friday art walk.

The sculpture is called When Our Worlds Collide, for a couple of reasons.

The title references the ways atoms collide in particle accelerators. But it’s also an homage to the evolving urban landscape in Roosevelt Row. “I just really got inspired by how the area is mixing the old and the new,” he says. “I wanted to convey the idea of mashing worlds together.”

Deise pitched the idea to Local Studio about a month ago, after returning from a trip to Cabo San Lucas. The Phoenix-based firm has been working with The Churchill developers Kell Duncan and Hartley Rodie on designing and building the marketplace.

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Pete Deise's sculpture towers over The Churchill in Roosevelt Row.
The Churchill
“I’d seen a shipping container turned upward,” Deise says. “I just had this crazy idea while I was surfing in Cabo.”

Deise recalls making a series several years ago with linear works that looked like strips of paper. He imagined doing something similar with the metal shipping containers, by cutting designs but leaving pieces attached to the structure rather than discarding them.

“I wanted to reuse the material and form it into a semi-kinetic structure,” Deise says. “I saw it as a childlike fantasy project.”

Deise started by drawing sketches and making models with thick cardstock, then getting his design approved.

Local Studio enlisted a team to help him execute the project. They provided tools like the plasma cutter used to cut Deise’s designs, and the lift that carried him to the taller parts of the piece.

The shipping container is 20 feet high, and its four walls measure 8 1/2 feet each. It’s placed atop a horizontal shipping container, which gives it even more height.

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Here's what it takes to create a towering shipping container sculpture.
Pete Deise
The project is a first for Deise, in more ways than one.

“It’s my first team collaborative project,” Deise says. “I got to work as a conductor, and I felt like I was performing on a stage every day.”

He started the piece on April 23, and documented the process on social media using photographs taken by friend and fellow artist Randy Slack. It’s mostly finished at this point, so Deise is getting back to solitary work inside his studio.

It’s clear he’s already missing the experience.

“This was such an adventure, and it’s been a fucking labor of love.”

He’s hoping people will stop by during the First Friday art walk on May 4, when he’ll be doing some finishing touches on the sculpture. It’ll be lit with shifting colors of LED lights come nightfall, when Deise hopes it’ll have a dramatic effect on those who see it.

“I want it to be magical,” he says.