Scottsdale Arts celebrates 50 years of public art

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Scottsdale Arts is hosting an event on October 26 to commemorate 50 years of public art being integrated into the City of Scottsdale.

The event will feature the dedication of “The Desert’s Garden,” a new mosaic artwork installed by Arizona-based artist Tammi Lynch-Forrest near Scottsdale City Hall, and a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Louise Nevelson’s “Windows to the West,” the first large-scale artwork in the city’s collection.

Wendy Raisanen, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for Scottsdale Arts, has a special connection to this as she grew up in southern Scottsdale and used to visit the Civic Center when she was a child. As an artist herself, Louise Nevelson was among Raisanen’s heroes.

Raisanen has worked for Scottsdale Arts in a variety of positions for more than 20 years. Her primary responsibility is caring for the collection of 159 large-scale artworks throughout the city, including the piece that is now turning 50 years old.

“We are celebrating our oldest and newest public art commissions for the Civic Center.”

Back then, most public art commissions were awarded to men and most sculptors that anyone knew of were men.

“The city of Scottsdale chose a woman, and she [Nelelson] was a pre-eminent sculptor of the day, but it was a bold move, I think,” Raisanen said.

Nevelson was very excited about the placement of her sculpture. She loved the beautiful clear air, the space and the mountains. Raisanen said that the sculpture was meant to celebrate those things, that you would look through these windows and imagine the world around it.

“Public art is like a gift to the citizens and visitors,” Raisanen said. “It’s something to help people feel pride in their city, to help them find a little peace, a little distraction from the things that are going on. Public art is for everybody.”

Wendy Raisanen, Curator, Collections and Exhibitions, Scottsdale Arts

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