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Downtown Phoenix sculpture gets a name, and it’s not “jellyfish”

"Her secret is patience" patiently awaits its netting (Photo: Arizona Republic)

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — For almost a year, Sky Bloom has been the working title for a public art sculpture being created for a downtown Phoenix park.   The name fit, in part, because it represents the sculpture’s design: a floating saguaro cactus flower.  But on Tuesday, Boston artist Janet Echelman unveiled the formal name she has chosen — Her secret is patience.  It is half of the full line — “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience” — by poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The name is also fitting, as the piece has been both hailed and questioned during the past months.  Now, with the last element of the piece to be added in early March, the patience of the public is soon to be rewarded, allowing them to judge the piece as a whole.

Echelman discussed her work at the Phoenix Art Museum.  During the evening, she was congratulated time and again by audience members.  She stressed that the piece wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of a wide-ranging team.  The group includes the Phoenix Arts and Culture Office; CAID Industries, a Tucson metal-fabrication specialist; EDAW, a landscape architectural firm in Phoenix; M3 Engineers of Tucson, which made the structural steel; Speranza Architecture in Barcelona; designer Buro Happold from New York; ForeSite Design and Construction from Tempe which did the foundation in the park; Nexus Steel of Tempe, which erected the steel posts; Diamond Nets of Washington state, which is weaving the netting; and NETServices also of Washington state, which will install the netting.

That many companies with Arizona connections could take some of the fight out of naysayers who questioned the piece since it was approved by the City Council in 2007.  The project is being funded by the city’s Percent for Art program.  The sculpture is to be an iconic piece for the 2.77-acre Civic Space downtown park being developed between Central and First avenues, and Van Buren and Fillmore streets.

Echelman profusely thanked Valley residents for standing up for her project.  At one point in late 2007, some city leaders suggested it be cut.  A groundswell of support helped push it forward.  “I am privileged,” Echelman said to the audience.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix parks board officials try to lessen budget cuts

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton Arizona Republic] — Members of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board hope to show their passion for a good cause dear to them.  At stake: the fate of the city department they represent, a department facing dire budget cuts.  To lessen the cuts, board members suggest:

  • Trimming the Public Safety Department budget by an additional 1% (under the current proposal, police and fire leaders each would cut an estimated 7.5% of their operating budgets).
  • Creating a sales tax on groceries.
  • Enlisting community leaders to encourage philanthropy.

To get their message across, members are showing up at each of the 14 meetings scheduled to let the community share concerns about upcoming city budget cuts.  The meetings began Tuesday and will conclude Jan. 27.  Board chairwoman Diana Brooks said the meetings are a chance for members to do what they can to speak up for the Parks and Recreation Department and perhaps lessen the proposed cuts.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix Civic Space floating sculpture nears completion

[Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — Sky Bloom, the much-debated public art piece taking shape in a downtown Phoenix park, is about to get its final installment: more than 600 pounds of netting that will be affixed to the two blue steel rings already in place.  It’s just what the sculpture’s naysayers and fans have been waiting for.  When it was first approved by the Phoenix City Council in late 2007, its size, design, and $2.4 million price tag became a hot topic.  Some argued it was a waste of money; others said it gave Phoenix a cultural boost and gave jobs to Arizonans, including a Tucson engineering firm, to help create the piece.

The giant rings, erected in June, are the hub of what will be a 100-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide floating net sculpture.  It was designed by Boston artist Janet Echelman with a goal to be the focal point of the 2.7-acre park being developed between Central and First avenues, and Van Buren and Fillmore streets.

The polyester netting is being braided by a company in Washington state.  “The fabric is variegated, to give the appearance of various shades of blue,” said John Neal, vice president of Diamond Nets Inc.  He said they will be finished within a few weeks.  City officials will coordinate with the ongoing development of the park on the right time to attach the net but estimate it will happen before early March, possibly in February.  [Note: To view the full article, click here.  To view a 24/7 webcam of Civic Space construction, click here.]

Phoenix Civic Space artist talks about her “Sky Bloom” project

Janet Echelman

Janet Echelman

[Source: Stephanie Dembowski, Special for the Republic] — “Her secret is patience” is the title of the unfinished art piece suspended in the air across the street from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/PBS Eight building on Central and Taylor downtown.  The artist, Janet Echelman, spoke to students and guests about the piece as a part of the Journalism “Cronkite Week” last week alongside Paul Deeb, who designed the 78-foot light sculpture in the school’s stairwell.

“Patience” is actually no secret at all, as the $2.4 million project started in spring of 2007 and has seen little activity in recent months.  Echleman said she was “asked not to speak about the piece until it was unveiled.”  She said that could be as soon as January.  The 100-foot-wide, 100-foot-tall Sky Bloom sparked both praise and curiosity when the Phoenix City Council approved the public art for the Downtown Civic Space Park.  Three steel towers and two steel rings will support the sculpture.  But the sculpture’s netting, designed to resemble a saguaro flower, has yet to be installed.  And for observers — pro and con — the netting is what generated the hoopla in the first place.  Some said it looked like a jellyfish; some, like a mushroom.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

State legislative debate, Sept. 15, at ASU Downtown Phoenix campus

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — [Central Phoenix residents] have a chance to learn more about legislative candidates during a debate aimed at giving them a better idea of whom to vote for in the Nov. 4 general election.  Arizona State University is teaming with the Citizens Clean Election Commission to sponsor several debates in state legislative districts near ASU campuses.  For voters in District 16, the debate will be held on September 15, starting at 6:30 p.m., at the Mercado at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, 502 E. Monroe St., Room C-145.

Invited to participate are state Senate candidates Daniel Veres (Republican) and Leah Landrum (Democrat), as well as state House candidates Cloves Campbell Jr. (Democrat), Ben Miranda (Democrat), Ronald Harders (Republican), and Ray Williams (Republican).  For more information, click here or call Van Ornelas at 480-965-0100.

Survey aims to help plight of Phoenix homeless

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — Levi Caddell’s comments came near the end of the meeting, but he seemed to provide one of the clearest reasons why those around him had gathered at the Phoenix hotel today.  “Three years ago, I was a homeless vet on the streets of Phoenix,” he said.  “But the system works.  They gave me my life back.”  Caddell, 56, was giving thanks to the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Central Arizona Shelter Services, and other groups in the Valley that help the homeless.  Caddell now serves as a veteran support specialist for CASS in Phoenix.  His is just one success, VA employees said.  They want more.

It was why they brought together representatives of non-profit groups and organizations that assist the homeless or veterans.  The meeting was part of an initiative by Project CHALENG, a federal Department of Veterans Affairs program that stands for Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education, and Networking Groups.  Each year, leaders of Project CHALENG ask groups or organizations assisting the homeless to fill out a survey to help discover the unmet needs of homeless veterans.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Phoenix Councilman Nowakowski highlights resident “hot buttons”

In an interview with Arizona Republic reporter, Connie Cone Sexton, Phoenix City Councilman, Michael Nowakowski, highlighted several areas of concern expressed to him from residents living in and around downtown Phoenix.  Those top issues are summarized below:

Historic Neighborhoods and Downtown

  • Increase and improve streetscapes
  • Ability to walk down streets without being run down

Fairgrounds Vicinity

  • Reduce crime
  • Investigate interest/feasibility of moving the state fairgrounds
  • Create a sort of Biltmore area by extending the Encanto Golf Course to blend into the neighborhood

South Phoenix

  • Beautify and enliven the banks along the Salt River
  • Establish a retail and entertainment district (ala San Antonio’s Riverwalk)

Civic Space artwork wins award even before it’s up

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic, June 10, 2008] — The floating sculpture being built for the downtown Civic Space Park isn’t even off the ground yet, but already has won an award.  The sculpture recently received the Excellence in Structural Engineering Award from the Arizona Structural Engineers Association.  The award was given to Tucson-based M3 Engineering and Technology, a member of the sculpture’s design and fabrication team, which is headed by CAID Industries, also of Tucson.

Boston-area artist Janet Echelman designed the sculpture.  When completed, it will be suspended 38 feet above the park on a framework of two steel rings, tapered poles and cables.  It will rise to an overall height of 100 feet and be approximately 100 feet wide at the top.  The roughly $2.4 million project is designed to show the wind in motion and create dappled shade in the park.  It will change colors, from blue to orange to pink, according to the season.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Demolished MSG replaced by box, museum

Replaced with an ugly office building[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — A museum that hearkens to the layered cultural spirit of the former Phoenix Madison Square Garden will be unveiled today in a new building where the downtown popular arena once stood.  The old building, which had been home to boxing and wrestling matches but also musical shows and evangelism revivals, was torn down in 2005.  As part of a rezoning hearing to allow for the four-story office building, the Phoenix City Council required the developer to commemorate the history of the arena.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.  To listen to KJZZ’s recap of the Madison Square Garden controversy, click here.]

Phoenix public art: Hidden in plain sight

[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — It’s been written up in Newsweek and dissected by the Sunday New York Times, and it has garnered a top-10-in-the-country kind of reputation. Phoenix’s public-art program has made its mark across the city, adorning parks, canals, freeways and street corners.  Many of the projects showcase cultural aspects of the Southwest.  Some are hidden in plain sight, such as the pedestrian bridges crossing the Piestewa Freeway, their jagged silhouettes mirroring nearby mountains.   Since the first art piece was installed 20 years ago in a McDowell Road freeway underpass, the city has spent more than $26 million on about 120 projects ranging from murals, sculptures and photographs to textiles, paintings and glass blocks.

The average Phoenix resident probably doesn’t give the city’s public-art program much thought — until a controversy breaks out.  That is what happened in December, when a public outcry rose up over a planned $2.4 million floating sculpture for a downtown park.  There were jabs at the design, some saying it resembled a jellyfish.  But at the heart of the debate was the city’s proposed expenditure when facing its largest budget deficit.

The public-art program hadn’t faced such controversy since 1992 when a string of large teacups and saucers were placed along the Squaw Peak Parkway, now called the Piestewa Freeway.  Although some observers called them quirky, most of the calls and letters into City Hall deemed them ridiculous.  A few of the pieces were vandalized and one, which looked like a commode, was removed by the city.  The art program survived the “Squaw Peak pots” debacle, and it remains to be seen how the public will take to the floating sculpture once it goes up by early 2009.

As they did before, leaders are defending the public-art program.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]