Public Art @ Phoenix Convention Center
Artwork has been a critical component of the Phoenix Convention Center since it originally opened in 1972. Building upon this civic commitment to the arts, the City, through the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program, commissioned new artworks by local, regional and national artists to be incorporated into the expanded Phoenix Convention Center. These works offer a variety of perspectives on life in Phoenix, the United States, and the world in the 21st century, and join several other pieces in the Convention Center’s extensive collection. (1) NOTE: The Visitor Information Center, is located in the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues West Building.
Backstory and Context
Artist Selection Process:
A "call to artists" process was issued by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. A 10-member public art panel for the Phoenix Convention Center expansion project was assembled, including local artists and representatives from the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, the Phoenix Convention Center, and local cultural organizations.
Expansion Artists and Artwork:
As part of the Phoenix Convention Center expansion in the early 2000s, 10 artists were selected to create pieces for the West and North Buildings. The artwork was installed in both phases of construction, with a majority of pieces being installed in Phase Two.(2008) (Phase One opened in 2006.) The following pieces were created for this new Phoenix Convention Center expansion.
“Million Colors,” Tony Oursler – Five video installations projected directly onto the architectural surfaces of the arcade space between the West Building Atrium and Monroe Street. The videos feature local theatre actors reciting poetic vignettes about Arizona.
"Art is Guaranty of Sanity," Louise Bourgeois - A monumental, 90-foot mirror sculpture, located in the West Building atrium. The mirror face is highly polished steel, cut into shapes derived from a drawing of a spider web – a recurring theme in much of the artist’s work. Visitors will see themselves and the atrium space dynamically reflected in the mirror’s surface. The mirror also reflects one of Bourgeois’s hallmark phrases, which also serves as the title for the piece: “Art is Guaranty of Sanity.” The sculpture was engineered and fabricated by Caid Industries, in Tucson.
The back of the mirror is scalloped ridges of polished metal. The entire mirror is supported by a large steel stem that rises from the lower level food court of the convention center.
Ms. Bourgeois, widely recognized as one of the world's foremost living sculptors, explored several of her lifelong themes in creating the signature sculpture for the Phoenix Convention Center. The spider-web pattern on the face of the mirror gives viewers constantly changing views of themselves and the atrium.
Bourgeois was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, the nation’s highest honor for visual arts, by President Clinton in 1997. Bourgeois was born in France in 1911 and moved in 1938 to New York. She passed away in May, 2010. (4)
“Night Blooming Garden,” Beliz Brother – One hundred forty-four blue and green LED runway lights arranged in arcs along the sidewalks around the Phoenix Convention Center campus. The lights are designed to replicate a night-blooming cereus plant of the Sonoran Desert and gently influence pedestrian movement surrounding the Convention Center facilities.
“Social Invertebrates”, Tom Otterness – Three large, whimsical bronze sculptures of desert creatures, enlarged to human scale. The creatures include a millipede with a hat and shoes; a walking stick in high heels, and a scorpion holding two small men in top hats tugging at a bag of money. Accompanying sculptural elements of people, scaled down to Lilliputian dimensions, interact with the creatures. The sculptures are set in a unique water-harvesting garden at the public plaza located near the southeast entrance of the North Building.
“Southern Exposure,” Jamex and Einar de la Torre – Two large-scale sentry figures, inspired by the columnnar figures at Tula, Mexico. They are constructed of metal, plate glass, blown glass and resin. The stacked glass boxes that make up with the figures contain blown glass objects, found objects and cultural artifacts reflecting the ancient and contemporary cultures of Arizona and the Southwest.
“Halo,” William Bennie and Kim Cridler – A wreath-like metal sculpture suspended over the Monroe Street ballroom entry. The sculpture employs a conical ring of interwoven agave leaves, framed and supported by a grid-like structure. The form references the multiple meanings of a wreath as denoting good luck; transformation through regeneration, like the Phoenix itself; and the ring of continuity, life, and cyclic time.
“Arizona Handshake,” Stephen Farley – Installation of ten 3’ x 10’ photographic tile panels depicting diverse individuals shaking hands as a symbol of welcome, economic prosperity, congratulations, assistance and community.
“A Moment at the Narrows,” Troy Moody – Water and landscape-inspired terrazzo flooring designs featured at two locations along the corridor inside the Washington Street side of the North Building. The designs are inspired by the topography of Arizona and the fragmented profiles of the Grand Canyon cliff face, which follow the irregular contours of the stone up to the vast blue sky.
“Arizona Beach,” Hirotsune Tashima – A series of humorous stoneware ceramic sculptures, intended to point to the power of growth and to encourage people to live fully. Located in the food court area inside the North Building, the playful group of sculptures mixes native flora and fauna and contemporary cultural references with the idea of a desert “beach.”
“The Earth Dreaming,” Isaiah Zagar – A colorful mosaic of tile murals at the Third Street and Monroe Street entrance which creates Phoenix and Arizona-specific imagery within the mural. (1)
2. Kathleen Vanesian, "Unburied Treasure: Phoenix Convention Center's Public Art Projects," PHOENIX NEW TIMES, August 13, 2009. A detailed tour of the Center's public art, including a slideshow. Accessed August 25, 2017.
3. "Phoenix Convention Center," Official Website, accessed August 25, 2017.
4. City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture description for "Art is Guaranty of Sanity;" featured at culturenow.org, accessed August 25, 2017.