"Tempe Cesspool for the Arts"

$6,000 irrigation ditch art!

Wow! $6,000 to put a bunch of pretty tiles on an irrigation ditch. They have another one like this on 13th Street near the railroad tracks. I wonder if it also cost $6,000? When your spending other peoples money there is no limit to the number of ways you can squander and waste thousands of dollars.


Tempe residents embrace new public-art project
Enthusiasm for mosaics contrasts with Phoenix flap

William Hermann
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 7, 2008 12:00 AM

While a proposed piece of Phoenix public art prompted controversy, Tempe's newest addition to its public-art collection was unveiled to applause.

Success in these matters, it would appear, may lie partly in the saying "less is more."

The $2.4 million Phoenix sculpture will be suspended 55 feet above a downtown park, while the new Tempe piece cost $6,000 and is at ground level.

The Phoenix piece by Boston-area artist Janet Echelman will be a 100-foot-wide, 65-foot-tall netting sculpture that will be suspended among three steel towers. The project is designed to show the wind in motion and create dappled shade in Civic Space park.

The Tempe piece is a neighborhood-beautification project designed to put place mosaic designs on two irrigation standpipes in the Mitchell Park East neighborhood, a few blocks west of downtown. Maple Ash neighbors decorated two standpipes, which protect irrigation controls, with art that recounts community aesthetics and history.

"The neighbors initiated the project, made a grant proposal to the city, chose the artist, met with city boards and saw it through themselves," said Tempe public-art administrator Elizabeth Lagman. "It's what the people who live around it wanted, so there just is no controversy."

Linda Knutson, chairwoman of the Mitchell Park East Neighborhood Association, said involving as many people as possible in the process of choosing the art and the artist ensured widespread acceptance of the project. It also was "another step in bringing back this neighborhood."

"This neighborhood needed some help, and these art pieces show how much we care about our neighborhood," Knutson said.

Knutson and fellow neighbors also chose an artist with long experience in creating public art that would be unifying.

Joan Baron of Scottsdale has created a dozen works of public art in the Valley, and as is her practice, worked with neighbors to develop ideas.

"Irrigation has made that part of Tempe very lush, and so the area has a large and wonderfully diverse bird population," Baron said. "So we chose birds as a theme . . . and everyone seems pretty happy with that."

And making people happy and improving good feelings in a neighborhood is what public art is all about, Baron said.

"Good public art brings visual poetry to an area and makes people feel good," Baron said. "And when they feel good, they want to do good."

Baron said she is pleased with the positive response to her work. As for the Phoenix project, she has sympathy for the artist.

"The city should do everything in its power to make sure this piece is installed," Baron said. "The work is significant and would be a major contribution to the public-art collection of Phoenix. People shouldn't be afraid of it, but welcome it."

Tempe Center for the Arts

Tempe Cesspool for the Arts