Blog Archives

Film screening to explore history, benefits of park development

A documentary on the urban park development movement titled “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks” will be the subject of a free, public screening at Civic Space Park’s A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave., on January 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30. The documentary explores the park architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted and the evolution and history of urban park development in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. The event will also feature the TED talk short video by artist Janet Echelman about her work, including Civic Space Park’s signature art piece, “Her Secret Is Patience.”

Viewers also will be able to meet one of the filmmakers of the Olmsted documentary, Rebecca Messner, and participate in a short presentation and discussion on local and national Red Field to Green Fields initiative to convert economically depressed “red” private property (residential, commercial and industrial) into public park property “green.”

The screening is a presentation of No Festival Required’s Building Community Cinema series with the support of the Speedwell Foundation, the City Parks Alliance, Arizona State University, Butler Housing Company, Phoenix Community Alliance, Phoenix Parks Foundation and the City of Phoenix.

Public Art in Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix is often a pretty frustrating place for an urbanist like myself.  One of the things that offsets the negative urban aspects of our downtown core is its great public art.  Apparently, I’m not the only person to think so.

Earlier this summer, two public art pieces in downtown Phoenix topped Americans for the Arts‘ 2010 list of the 40 best public art works in the United States and Canada: the well-known Her Secret is Patience by Janet Echelman at the Civic Space Park and Habitat by Christy Ten Eyck and Judeen Terrey at the Phoenix Convention Center. A third Phoenix piece, Spirit of Inquiry at the University and Rural light rail station ASU  by Bill Will and Norie Sato,  is easily accessible from downtown Phoenix on light rail

"Her Secret Is Patience" (Source: Echelman.com)

The pieces were selected for Americans for the Arts’ 2010 Public Art Year in Review which recognizes 40 of the year’s best public art works in the United States and Canada.  This year’s selections consisted of projects from 29 cities in 15 states and provinces. The works were chosen from more than 300 entries from across Canada and the United States.  Phoenix and Houston were the only two cities to have three pieces recognized.  Five cities had two pieces selected.

"Habitat" (Source: azbigmedia.com)

Two independent public art experts—artists Helen Lessick and Fred Wilson—compiled the list, which reflects the most exemplary, innovative permanent or temporary public art works created or debuted in 2009.  This is the 10th year that Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts, has recognized public art works.

"Spirit of Inquiry" (Source: Valley Metro)

To learn more about public art in and around downtown Phoenix, check out this excelent post by Meghanne Bearden for the Phoenix Community Alliance.

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Viewpoint: Phoenix budget woes, big art, light rail made ’09 quite a year

[Source: Arizona Republic; section headers organized by yours truly] — With this being Christmas week, we figured you wouldn’t want to read a traditional editorial any more than we wanted to write one.  So today, we lighten things up a bit with awards for notable achievements in 2009.

Phoenix Overall

  • Story of the year: Phoenix did the virtually impossible this year — it cut $270 million from the general fund to balance the budget due to low sales-tax revenue.  Residents are feeling the effects with reduced hours or closures of swimming pools, libraries, and senior centers.  They also see more graffiti and potholes because staff is stretched so thin.  Now the city is talking about cutting an additional $100 million or so.  This story is getting old.
  • Best cheerleader: Mayor Phil Gordon earns this award again.  With frequent trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stimulus funds, and Janet Napolitano resigning as governor to lead Homeland Security, Gordon is the face of Arizona.
  • Embarrassment: Rep. Ray Barnes’ rambling reasons for voting to cut $144 million from public education.  Grab some eggnog and watch this Phoenix Republican go off.
  • Hot potato: The idea to raise the sales tax temporarily to generate revenue quickly.  Mayor Gordon suggested a community member take on his idea.  But no one wants to touch it.
  • Landmark: The city became the second in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to gay or straight couples who share a Phoenix residence.  Among other privileges, the registry grants partners visitation rights in hospitals.
  • Pillar: City Manager Frank Fairbanks earns this award again.  He retired this year, but not before balancing the nastiest budget deficit in city history.  Thanks, Frank.

Downtown Focused/Strong Influence

  • Pushin’ on: Light rail has its fans and its foes.  But ridership is up and businesses have sprouted along the line.  The system is approaching it first anniversary.  We say light rail is on track.
  • Newcomer: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret Is Patience” at the new Civic Space Park downtown opened to much criticism.  Meant to resemble a cactus bloom, the floating sculpture was called everything from a basketball hoop to a male contraceptive.  Not that we mind.  Some of the best artwork in the world drew heavy criticism.  We’re just glad people are noticing what downtown Phoenix has to offer.
  • Comeback: Phoenix Urban Market Grocery and Wine Bar at Central Avenue and Pierce Street is the first grocer to serve the area in 30 years.  It only carries the basics.  But milk, vegetables, bread, pasta and other staples are welcome.
  • Bragging rights: President Barack Obama made three visits to the Valley this year.  One of those was to the new Phoenix Convention Center, where Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.
  • Feather in the cap: A budding knowledge-based economy, parks and preservation efforts, and teen spaces at public libraries make Phoenix an All-America City.  Now it has the civic award to prove it.  This was Phoenix’s fifth win.  It would be a shame to lose these gains to budget cuts in the down economy.

Other Parts of Phoenix

  • Senseless act: A photo-enforcement-van driver was shot to death while deployed near Loop 101 in north Phoenix.  Thomas DeStories was indicted in connection with the shooting death of Douglas Georgianni.
  • Tallest story: Despite opposition from neighbors, the City Council approved a Mormon temple whose steeple and spire will rise 86 feet above the Deer Valley area.
  • Unsung hero: The Macehualli Day Labor Center in northeastern Phoenix provides a central location for day laborers and potential employers to negotiate business.  The center is for sale.

Despite economy, metro Phoenix public art well-funded

Civic Space Park, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Weldon B. Johnson, Arizona Republic] — Despite the economic slump, Valley communities are maintaining a commitment to public art thanks in large part to the way those programs receive money.  As a result, local art commissions are able to bring new artworks to the public’s attention, such as the huge floating sculpture, “Her Secret Is Patience,” by Janet Echelman in downtown Phoenix or “The Doors,” by Donald Lipski in Scottsdale.

Most community public-art programs are funded through ordinances that take a small percentage (usually 1 percent or less) of the funds for capital projects such as buildings, streets or parks and set it aside for a public-art component.  If those projects go forward, the art components often continue.  Because many such projects are funded through bond issues and other sources, they haven’t been hurt as much by the recession as items that are paid for through a city’s general fund.

Phoenix’s public-art program is considered one of the most progressive in the country.  Since it was created in 1986, it has installed more than 150 projects throughout the city.  Phil Jones, [just retired] executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, expects that to continue.  “We’ve had a couple of major bond elections in the past 10 years that have helped feed the program somewhat,” Jones said.  “As time progresses, the resources may not be as plentiful, but right now we have sufficient funding for about 80 projects.  That will keep us busy for a while.”  [Note: Read the full article at Despite economy, metro Phoenix public art well-funded.]

5 downtown Phoenix projects win Valley Forward awards (6 if you count light rail)

Civic Space Park, "Her Secret is Patience," and adjoining Taylor Place and light rail win awards

[Source: Shaun McKinnon, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s light-rail system received the top prize Saturday night in Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards, a program that honors contributions to livability and sustainability.  The rail system, which opened less than a year ago, was recognized for connecting Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe with a transportation network that contest judges noted had already exceeded expectations.  “While light rail won’t solve the Valley’s transportation challenges, it offers a flexible and cost-effective alternative to the automobile and was designed to be integrated with all modes of transport,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward, a community group that works on livability and sustainability issues.

The group presents its awards in more than a dozen categories each year to cities, community groups and private businesses. From among the category winners, the judges choose one to receive the President’s Award, the contest’s best-in-show recognition.

Metro Light Rail won a first place in the Livable Communities, Multimodal Transportation and Connectivity category.  The awards are named “Crescordia,” a Greek term that means “to grow in harmony.”  More than 150 entries were submitted for the awards. The rest of the winners:

Downtown Phoenix

  • Civic Space Park, a 2.8-acre public space near Central Avenue and Fillmore Street in Phoenix, was honored for its mix of gathering spaces and storefronts, built with efficient use of materials.
  • Her Secret is Patience, the billowing outdoor sculpture suspended above Phoenix’s Civic Space Park, won the top public-art honor. The judges saw “an important statement about fostering sense of place, community and pride.”
  • Hanny’s, a restaurant and lounge in downtown Phoenix, won for its adaptive reuse of a historic building.
  • Habitat, the living wall and garden at the Phoenix Convention Center, was recognized for its design and use of resources to provide a comfortable gathering place.
  • Arizona State University’s Taylor Place, a student housing complex at the school’s downtown Phoenix campus, won for multi-family residential building.

Tempe

  • The headquarters of Sundt, a Tempe-based contractor, was recognized for its green-building achievements, which included energy-saving features and efficient use of materials.
  • The Tempe Transportation Center won two first-place awards, one for industrial and public works buildings and structures, and one for its rooftop landscaping in the site development category.
  • ASU’s campus solarization project was honored for an effort to generate more renewable power on the school’s Tempe campus.
  • Burgis Envirolutions was honored in the environmental-technologies category for its organic-refuse conversion process, which transforms more than a ton of food waste each day into a nutrient-rich effluent.

Other locales

  • Phoenix’s Bag Central Station, a campaign to recycle plastic bags, was honored in the environmental education and communication category.
  • A remodeled Sunnyslope office building was recognized for its side development and landscape at the remodeled 40-year-old building.  Imirzian and Associates architects and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects were named in the award.
  • ASU’s Polytechnic Campus was honored for transforming a site on the former Williams Air Force Base into what the judges described as a walkable, shady campus.
  • The Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale was recognized for the work done to re-vegetate the site, the use of rainwater harvesting for water and solar energy to provide its power needs.

For a complete list of categories with merit award winners, click here.

Fair Trade Cafe opens at downtown Phoenix Civic Space Park

A.E. England Building, site of new Fair Trade Cafe (Photo source: Jane's Walk Phoenix)

[Source: City of Phoenix] — The historic A.E. England Building in downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space Park is celebrating the grand opening of its anchor tenant, Fair Trade Café.  Civic Space Park, nestled into 2.77 acres at 424 N. Central Ave., offers residents, workers, ASU students, and downtown visitors a park with unique urban design, sustainable construction, adaptive reuse, and operational features, and a landmark public sculpture by artist Janet Echelman.

Fair Trade Café is located on the ground floor of the historic A.E. England building, named after the 1926 business formerly housed there. Fair Trade will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.  In addition to its storefront retail and food options, the building has space available for meetings, presentations, small banquets, art events, and classes.  For more information about the park and space availability, click here.

Another feature of downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space is historic A.E. England Building

While much of the hubbub of downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space focused on Janet Echelman’s public art piece, “Her Secret is Patience,” another important feature of the park is the historic A.E. England Building.   Thanks to the 2006 Historic Preservation Bond Committee, Phoenix residents who voted for the 2006 Bond Program, local preservation advocates, the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Commission, and Mayor Gordon and City Council, the building was spared from the wrecking ball (yes, it was threatened at one point).

The interior renovation is not quite done.  While you’re waiting for it to be completed and the “grand opening” later this spring, sit back and read about its history, courtesy of the staff at the Historic Preservation Office:

Locally prominent builder Clinton Campbell constructed the A.E. England Motors, Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building in 1926.   The Spanish Renaissance Revival style building features three large storefront windows with ornate cast concrete window surrounds and decorative course molding along the roof parapet.  Six original bow-string wood trusses, sandwiched between new laminated beams, support the roof structure.

Originally an automotive dealership, A.E. England sold autos from the Hudson Motor Car Co. (1909-1954) and its less expensive Essex brand.   Cars were featured prominently in the building’s large display windows.   Central Avenue north of Van Buren Street became Phoenix’s first “auto row,” lined with Cadillac, Studebaker, Ford, and DeSoto dealerships well into the 1960s.

England left the auto sales business sometime in the early 1930s.   The Electrical Equipment Co., purveyors of radios, batteries, and Kelvinator refrigerators, occupied the building for the next twenty-five years.   The company’s “Gold Room,” decorated with gold drapes, gold walls and gold wicker furniture, provided an optimal radio listening experience for prospective buyers.  Five Atwater-Kent cabinet radios were on display, ready for demonstration by company salesmen.

The Electrical Equipment Co., along with The Arizona Republican (now The Arizona Republic) newspaper, owned the KTAR radio station.   Initially called KFAD and founded in 1922, KTAR was the first radio station in Arizona.   The Electrical Equipment Co. provided the equipment for the radio station which was originally located in the Heard Building at 112 N. Central Avenue.

In its later years, the A.E. England Motors Co., Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building hosted a stationery store and an art gallery.   The building’s north wall, which was originally a party wall with another building, now consists largely of glass storefront panels in-filled between the original concrete columns.  The building was listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2006 and rehabilitated by the City of Phoenix in 2008-2009 as part of the downtown Phoenix Civic Space.

Viewpoint: Downtown park’s details, sculpture a nod to Phoenix’s future

[Source: Arizona Republic] — A gigantic swirl of metal mesh floats in the sky, rising nearly 100 feet into the air. Designed by artist Janet Echelman, the sculpture has the evocative name, “Her Secret is Patience.”

The sight is all the more amazing because it almost never happened.

In the midst of questions about construction schedules, doubts about materials and controversy over the design, Phoenix City Council members resisted efforts to take the sculpture off their agenda.   They had the foresight to say yes.

Now, we can see just how right they were.

Yes.  This is just what Phoenix needs: a distinctive feature that helps create a real sense of place.

At night, the lighting creates a surreal funnel of color.

What you might overlook are all the other creative features in the park, from paving to solar panels.  In the long run, they can be as significant as the sculpture in shaping the identity of the city — and the region.

The walkways include pervious concrete and pavers, which will let our precious rainfall seep through to the ground.

While it’s not obvious yet, the trees and plants are designed to shade more than 70 percent of the park’s surface area once they reach maturity.   Phoenix has long needed more attention to ways of dealing with a dual challenge: the natural heat of the desert and the unnatural buildup of heat from urbanization.

City trees face special stresses here.   Those in the park are planted with a special soil to let roots grow and a grating system to let in air and water.

The park, which goes by the temporary name of Downtown Civic Space, is also a step forward in boosting Phoenix’s use of solar power.   The shade structures have solar panels that will generate enough power to offset the energy use at the park.

In such a relatively new city, a nod to history is critical, too.   The historic A.E. England building has been preserved and is under renovation as a space for community functions, classrooms, retail, and dining.

And here’s a shocker — there are no parking spaces.  Light rail and bus stops are nearby. Residents, students, workers and visitors can walk.   It’s a nudge toward a less car-dependent future.

The park just has one lingering question: a name.  The current drab moniker is a placeholder.  The city is hoping a benefactor will step forward to support the new park, just as the Steele Foundation helped pay for building Steele Indian School Park.

Some individual or organization should be eager to grab this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.   On the other hand, the economy is still weak.  In this case, maybe the secret is patience.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Viewpoint: “Her Secret is Patience” public art piece by Janet Echelman is complete!

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"Her Secret is Patience" (Photo: City of Phoenix)

[Source: Lilia Menconi, Phoenix New Times] — There it is! I am so excited for this one…  I thought that after Kathleen Vanesian wrote about Echelman and I blogged about her a couple times, I might be a little Echelman’ed out.  But I buzzed down to the Downtown Civic Space last night, right around sunset, and was totally blown away. The sculpture is fantastic and (call me optimistic) I really believe that it’s going to become a symbol of our city.

I took the liberty of snapping some photos for a slideshow to give you a sneak peak. Unfortunately, the Downtown Civic Space is still fenced off, so all the vantage points are from the street.  It was a great night to see it — the wind was kicking up to make the netting sway and dance.  Most of the net is ultramarine except for a few purple accents and a bright orange funnel of netting in the center. When the sun broke through the clouds, the colors became electric.  I can’t wait to be able to walk under this thing and look at it from every angle when the Civic Space is open (tomorrow).

The most impressive feat is the way this enormous structure really does seem to float in the air.  There are massive support beams and cables to hold the thing up, of course.  But, as I walked around the block, (between 1st and Central Avenue, north of Van Buren), I was amazed at its visual weightlessness.  I was so focused, I’m surprised I didn’t walk into a pole or a homeless person.  Needless to say, I love it.  And don’t let this slideshow alone satisfy you… make a visit!  Use the light rail, see the art, and appreciate where we live… [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Other slide shows or photo albums we’ve come across:

New downtown Phoenix park to make big debut

[Source: Maria Konopken, ABC 15] — The blue disk hanging over downtown Phoenix will soon be official as a part of downtown’s grand opening ceremony for the city’s newest park. Downtown Civic Space Park, located in the area of Central and Van Buren, will have its grand opening on Thursday April 16 at 3 p.m., as part of an all day informal event from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The 2.77 acres park will include a public sculpture done by artist Janet Echelman and a renovated A.E. England building that will include retail shopping, food, and banquette and meeting rooms. The park will also have numerous sustainable features including solar panels, extensive shade when trees and plants mature, and previous used concrete that will soak in rain water to help with water conservation.

Downtown Civic Space Park will also host live music on Friday April 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. as part of grand opening activities. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]