Scottsdale’s appreciation for the arts is celebrated in every corner, from the myriad public art displays to the museums with ever-changing exhibitions. Yet, the heart of the city’s art scene beats strongest at the Celebration of Fine Art. This annual event, taking place from January 13 to March 24, 2024, is not just an exhibition but a community gathering, bringing together art aficionados and creators in a unique celebration of creativity.
Throughout the event’s 30-year history, the Celebration of Fine Art has become a staple event for art lovers to connect with each other and the talented artists who populate the 40,000-square-foot showcase. These creatives include 100 celebrated and emerging artists from across the country, whose art ranges from ceramics and jewelry to paintings and furniture.
Not only will the artists be showcasing their collections, but they will also create new pieces within their studios. This activity will take place throughout the 10-week event. Visitors are encouraged to engage with each artist and observe how various mediums are brought to life. Throughout the space, they also have access to a café and exclusive hour-long discussions each Friday at 4 p.m. that dive into the inspiration, techniques, and stories held by various artists.
Whether you’re new to the art world or a seasoned collector, the Celebration of Fine Art welcomes all. The show runs daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is just a ten-minute drive for Optima Kierland Apartments residents and a twenty-minute drive for Optima Sonoran Village residents. Tickets for the annual event can be found on their website.
Scottsdale and Chicago are both cities teeming with culture, arts and experiences, and with the new year comes an abundance of new exhibitions to explore. If you’re looking for a few ways to expand your world close to home, here are some of the best upcoming exhibitions in and around Scottsdale and Chicago:
Of the Earth, Morton Arboretum, Chicago
Replacing Morton Arboretum’s 2023 sculptural exhibition, Human + Nature, Of the Earth welcomes back five large-scale sculptures to the beloved outdoor museum. Created by Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska, each sculpture, created exclusively for the arboretum, is made of reclaimed wood and tree branches. Each of the five sculptures are thoughtful placed across the arboretum’s 1,700 acres, encouraging visitors to explore new areas they might not have been to before. Access to the exhibition is included with tickets to the arboretum and it runs through spring 2025.
Native America: In Translation, The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago
The Museum of Contemporary Photography’s latest exhibition, Native America: In Translation, welcomes stories of culture, heritage and what the legacy of colonialism looks like in our country. The nine Native American artists whose work appears in the exhibitions raise questions about identity, land rights and explore the abundant history of photography characterizing Native populations. The exhibition runs through May 12, 2024 and, like all exhibitions at The Museum of Contemporary Photography, is free to attend.
Oleaje [Groundswell], Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale
Step into the mind of Carolina Aranibar-Fernández at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art with her latest exhibition, Oleaje [Groundswell]. The vibrant and eye-opening showcase reveals the hidden stories behind global mining and trade. Carolina, a San Francisco-based artist with Bolivian roots, brings her personal touch to large-scale installations that are both visually appealing and thought-provoking. Using everything from sequins to beads, her work weaves a powerful narrative about our planet and its resources. The exhibition runs from February 10, 2024 – August 4, 2024 and tickets can be found here.
American Icons, Taliesin West, Scottsdale
Running through June 3, 2024 at Taliesin West, American Icons celebrates the renowned work of Georgia O’Keefe and Frank Lloyd Wright, icons in American art and architecture. The photography exhibition features 20 exclusive images of the two luminaries, exploring their lives, careers and how each affected American Modernism through art, design and culture. Tony Vaccaro, the photographer whose images are used in the exhibition, captured each icon separately during his career, but looking at the photographs, visitors will be able to find symmetry both visually and through their histories. Tickets for the exhibition can be found here.
As we continue our exploration of the carefully curated modernist furnishings at Optima communities, we’re excited to spotlight a distinctive piece gracing the lobby of Optima Lakeview: the Cloverleaf Sofa by Verner Panton. This iconic piece not only enhances the aesthetic of our space but also embodies the innovative spirit of its creator.
Verner Panton, renowned for his futuristic design approach, revolutionized the way we think about furniture and space. His works, characterized by bold colors and futuristic forms, made him a seminal figure in 20th-century design. Considered one of Denmark’s most notable furniture and interior designers, many of Verner’s designs, including the Cloverleaf Sofa, Cone Chair, Panton Chair, Shell Lamp and Panthella Lamp still remain popular and in production today.
The Cloverleaf Sofa, designed by Panton in 1969/1970 as part of the Visiona 2 exhibition, is meant to be more than just a seating arrangement. It’s a conversation starter and a space transformer. Resembling the sections of a cloverleaf, its interlocking parts and modular build allows for various configurations, making it a versatile addition to our communities.
Panton’s mastery in blending form and function is evident in the Cloverleaf Sofa. Its snake-like ergonomic design ensures comfort, while its aesthetic appeal makes it a focal point in any setting. Crafted with top-tier materials, this sofa is not just a testament to Panton’s design genius but also to the enduring quality of his creations.
Installed in the heart of Optima Lakeview, the Cloverleaf Sofa does more than just transform the space. It connects us to a time when designers like Panton were pushing the boundaries of form and function, echoing the technological progress of the late 20th century.
Today, the Cloverleaf Sofa is not just a piece of furniture; it’s a symbol of commitment to integrating artistic and functional designs in our living spaces. It exemplifies how classic design can coexist with modern living, encouraging interaction and adding a touch of whimsy to our daily lives.
As our residents and visitors experience the comfort and style of the Cloverleaf Sofa, they engage with a piece of design history that continues to inspire and delight. It stands as a vibrant example of how Optima embraces innovative design elements, creating spaces that are not just visually appealing but also enriching.
Revisit the artistic genius of Ellison Keomaka, where he offers a deep dive into his vibrant creations for Optima Kierland 7190. The mixture of artwork includes a dynamic collaboration with David Hovey Sr. and features pieces that draw from his past work at Optima Lakeview and take inspiration from Alexander Calder’s famous mobile sculptures. Ready for another colorful journey with Ellison? Dive in below:
What did the creative process entail when first conceiving and planning the artwork for Optima Kierland 7190?
When I started by creating artwork for Optima Kierland 7190, I aimed to maintain a bold and vibrant aesthetic. The Mobiles series was the first series I did for 7190 that included the mobile likeness. As their name suggests, I took inspiration from Alexander Calder’s mobile styles and then added more of my own style with the texture and colors. Other works, like the Primary series, took inspiration from previous artwork I’ve done for Optima Lakeview.
What role do color and texture play in these works?
Unlike some of my other artwork throughout the Optima Communities, all of the work I created for 7190 was done freehand with inks and paint. David Hovey Sr. has a particular affinity for bold colors, so I wanted to integrate that as a theme throughout my work. The Silhouette series is one of the boldest works I created for 7190. What makes this series stand out are the striking black backgrounds that are meant to hang on a white wall. I thought it framed the pieces well, giving the impression of a window through which you can view the colors behind.
You collaborated with David Hovey Sr. on one series at 7190 Optima Kierland. Can you describe this process and how these pieces differ from the other works in 7190?
David Hovey Sr. and I bounced around several ideas in the Free Form series before landing on a style for the Celebration series. He had visited to review some pieces, and during his visit, I suggested the idea of incorporating a black line in them. As I commenced drawing the lines, we collaborated, and I created four or five smaller pieces in that style. It was a wonderful experience to work alongside David in this way.
After sketching the lines and proposing some freeform shapes, David suggested adding some color, which we experimented with. It evolved into a fun reciprocal process that eventually yielded these vibrant pieces. These artworks blend influences from various fields, including automotive pinstriping and a touch of street art. In-person, they span 18 feet in width combined, making them quite impactful. There was no room for error with the black line, and since any adjustments would be noticeable, each piece had to be finalized in one take, freehand with inks and paint.
Is there anything else we should know about the creative process for these pieces or the work itself?
Managing the sheer volume of pieces is challenging and an art project in its own right. It requires shifting your mindset and thinking on a different scale constantly. For example, the Curiosity and Free Form series have so many individual pieces in the collection that my goal was to ensure that each stood out with its own unique look or style. So, these have been very interesting challenges that I find extremely rewarding.
At Optima®, art is a piv-otal part of our design philosophy, breathing life into our spaces and making them more than simply places to live. We recently sat down with Ellison Keomaka – the artist behind the captivating work in Optima Lakeview and Optima Kierland Apartments – to delve into his creative journey, inspirations, and his special bond with Optima. In our conversation, he shed light on his process of creating the artworks exhibited at Optima Verdana, turning each corner into an expressive play of shapes and hues below:
What did the creative process entail when first conceiving and planning the artwork for Optima Verdana?
The artwork for Optima Verdana followed the work I created for Optima Kierland 7190. Interestingly, I integrated a few ideas and inspirations from my 7190 artworks into the pieces I crafted for Verdana. However, with the Verdana artwork, I wanted to integrate more of the earthy, verdant tones associated with the community.
We’ve understood that you frequently experiment with diverse materials ranging from soil to fabric to add texture to your artwork. What materials did you utilize for these specific pieces, and why?
I’ve been combining old and new elements in my work since my pieces for Lakeview and Optima Kierland 7180. I feel that this technique has been refined further in these new projects. For World Scapes in Optima Verdana, I created pieces measuring 20 by 30 inches, which is smaller than the pieces where I’ve previously incorporated magazines. It’s neat because I ended up fitting entire magazine ads in each piece, which ended up having a huge impact.
It’s fun working with smaller pieces because they create a whole new vibe compared to the larger 48 by 60-inch pieces where I’ve had to stick a bunch of ads together to make it stand out. So using magazines on smaller canvases, like in World Scapes, introduces a refreshing dimension to the work. What I truly cherish about this work is the fusion of vintage and modern elements. The color of the paper, with its earthy tone, contrasts remarkably with the bright, modern colors.
I also utilized magazines for the Portals series at Verdana. These pieces consist of magazine clips I discovered that convey a sense of motion. Creating these pieces was quite a challenge. I needed to adhere the images to the canvas, and only after that do they get cut out. I drew the black lines first and applied the yellow background, then cut the images to fit the black lines. It was a delicate balance – waiting for the glue or polymer I use to reach the right level of dryness so I can still cut it. So those pieces were rather complex to create.
What role does color play in these works?
Verdana stood out with its characteristic earth tones, marking a slight shift from the vibrant tones used in my work for other Optima buildings. My goal was to use more complementary colors to accentuate the warmer hues while preserving the vibrancy. I didn’t have a full understanding of the building’s size or the amount of art it would host, but I knew that Verdana was smaller. So, my approach was to focus more on the details and textures, magnifying them since they were less in quantity. The goal was to create an engaging experience for the residents.
Blossoms are some of my favorite pieces that embody the earthy tones used throughout Verdana. They abstractly represent a cherry blossom tree. I’ve tried to deviate the image as much as possible from a recognizable tree, but I’ve preserved some elements like the blue texture, reminiscent of bark. Instead of literal flowers, I’ve scattered colorful dots throughout the piece, with a hidden explosion of color behind it all for contrast against the bright pinks.
In the Around series at Verdana, you can see how I continued to experiment with different hues – the teal juxtaposed with a pinkish-mauve tone. These pieces were created using a unique type of graffiti ink pen. The pen’s shape left a more rounded edge to the strokes. Every piece is designed to fulfill a certain narrative, and in that journey, there’s always something that I find gratifying, whether it’s the balance, color, or textures. However, these pieces hold a unique place in my heart.
Is there anything else we should know about the creative process for these pieces or the work itself?
Creating a few of the pieces was extraordinarily challenging. One of the pieces in the Spring series stands out due to a five-minute variation in the timing of the spray application while the paint was still wet. I used a pressure sprayer and experimented with different paint viscosities to achieve the desired effect. Despite the difficulty, I love that they invoke a fresh, spring-like sensation. Since they’re smaller, I wanted to incorporate more texture into them. They feature different colored dots and are strongly influenced by Calder and Miró.
At Optima®, our appreciation for public sculpture runs deep. For those who are always on the lookout for memorable leisurely activities, we have a truly special recommendation. The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park, situated just south of Optima Verdana®, presents a captivating mix of artistic wonder and natural splendor to explore.
The history of the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park began when the land along McCormick Boulevard and the north channel of the Chicago River had deteriorated into a “neglected eyesore” and was in desperate need of revitalization. This land was owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. In the mid-1980s, the Village of Skokie envisioned transforming it into a recreational haven, complete with jogging paths, biking trails, and picnic areas for visitors to enjoy. Concurrently, a group of citizens saw this as a canvas for displaying large-scale contemporary sculptures.
By 1988, Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park was realized. Through the combined efforts of the Village and its citizens, the park was transformed into an amenity rich, open-air art exhibit. Today, the park stretches two miles, from Dempster Street to Touhy Avenue, and proudly houses over 60 sculptures. These art pieces come from local, national, and international artists, making it a repository of diverse artistic expressions.
Visitors are encouraged to delve deeper through expert-guided tours which offer rich insights into the stories behind each sculpture and the artists who created them. Additionally, the park has fostered an educational environment, hosting tailored workshops and sessions. These sessions are designed to cater to schools, groups, and individuals, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of sculpture and art.
Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park is open year-round with free admission, underscoring the park’s dedication to making art accessible to all. It’s a haven for joggers, cyclists, and families who enjoy picnics. Additionally, the park is fully accessible, accommodating individuals with disabilities.
While the park is open seven days a week, access is limited between 11 PM and 4:30 AM. For art lovers and nature enthusiasts alike, Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park provides an unforgettable experience!
From mountain sides and deserts to urban rooftops and beyond, Cloth & Flame has been curating extraordinary dining experiences as experiential journeys — transcending the bounds of traditional restaurants and leading diners into a world where nature, architecture, and gourmet cuisine intertwine.
Cloth & Flame is the brainchild of the Phoenix-based husband-and-wife team, Matt Cooley & Olivia Laux, visionaries who believe that dining could be so much more than just food on a plate. To them, it’s about fostering connections and creating memories. With events in breathtaking locations across all 50 states, from Alaskan mountainsides and Arizona deserts to Oregon forests, their reach is as vast as their vision. Their events offer a respite from the digital age’s hustle, transporting guests to serene locales.
In a recent event promoted as “Flagstaff Fadeway,” Cloth & Flame brought an exclusive long-table dinner to the stunning lawn of the High Country Motor Lodge in Flagstaff, part of a weekend music festival inspired by the beauty of Northern Arizona. The festival offered its few hundred guests the opportunity to experience deeply intimate musical performances, kicking off with a five-course menu.
In an era when dinner events can be predictable, routine affairs, Cloth & Flame breaks the mold, ensuring that every event is a surprise and that no two experiences are the same. And with all of the outdoor venues, Cloth & Flame demonstrates profound respect for the environment. They look for spectacular settings and provide the landowners an alternative income source, potentially preserving these areas from development. Moreover, a portion of their dinner proceeds is directed to conservancies dedicated to protecting our planet’s wild and wonderful spaces.
At Cloth & Flame dinners, strangers become friends under starlit skies, conversations flow unhindered, and in this temporary commune, bonds are forged that last a lifetime. Cloth & Flame’s invitation is open to everyone. Whether you have a culinary dream to chase or are simply open to exploring theirs, gastronomic adventure is on the horizon.
Cloth & Flame serves up a return to authenticity, to the raw beauty of nature, and to the simple pleasure of a meal shared in good company. So, the next time you yearn for a break from the ordinary, remember that somewhere, atop a mountain or in the heart of a desert, a table awaits you. And at this table, you’ll not just find food, but an experience, a story, and perhaps, a piece of yourself that you never knew existed.
Interested in embarking on a culinary journey with Cloth & Flame? Follow the link here.
Modern structures that serve as both functional and breathtaking forms of art speak to us at Optima®, including the Soleri Bridge and Plaza at the Scottsdale Waterfront, in close proximity to Optima Sonoran Village®. The bridge and its adjoining plaza, envisioned by the renowned artist, architect, and philosopher Paolo Soleri, have become emblems of Scottsdale’s artistic soul, resonating deeply with locals and tourists alike.
The bridge is an architectural spectacle that functions as a dynamic, organic solar calendar. Anchored by two towering 64-foot pylons, its south side spans 27 feet, tapering to 18 feet on the north. Its precise alignment with true north allows it to play a mesmerizing game with the sun. The 6-inch gap between the pylons lets the sun cast an ever-changing shaft of light, marking solar events as the seasons shift. On the summer solstice, the sun at its zenith leaves no shadow, while on the winter solstice, the shadow stretches its longest, almost reaching the bridge itself.
Adjacent to the bridge, the plaza is an expansive 22,000-square-foot expanse, adorned with monolithic panels reminiscent of the aesthetics of Cosanti and Arcosanti. Each of these earth-cast panels, crafted meticulously over eight months using desert earth, water, and cement, weighs 3,500 pounds, and bears the intricate handwork of Soleri and his personal assistant, Roger Tomalty. The panels frame the plaza and lead towards the Goldwater Bell assembly, a fusion of Soleri’s commitment to architecture and ecology.
The story behind the project is as captivating as the structures themselves. A luminary in his field, Soleri has brought to life a concept he terms “arcology.” The bridge and plaza exemplify this philosophy, sharing an appreciation for our inherent connection to the sun and nature. Despite designing bridges for six decades, the Soleri Bridge was a first-of-its-kind commission for the then 91-year-old maestro.
Initiated by Scottsdale Public Art in 1990, the journey of the bridge and plaza from conception to completion was one of evolution and collaboration. As the canal’s surroundings transformed over two decades, so did the bridge’s design. The addition of the Waterfront Residences and commercial areas in 2007 provided the bridge with a context. Following funding and city approvals in 2008, the project took flight.
The unveiling of the bridge on December 11, 2010, was nothing short of a spectacle. A thousand-strong crowd converged on Old Town Scottsdale to witness the dedication. The event, a week shy of the winter solstice, showcased the bridge’s solar prowess, as attendees observed the sun’s shadow move between the pylons.
The Soleri Bridge and Plaza encapsulate Scottsdale’s rich heritage, blending history with contemporary artistry. They stand as a testament to a city that cherishes the past, celebrates the present, and looks forward to the future, all while emphasizing the harmony between humanity and nature.
As residents of Optima Sonoran Village® know, Scottsdale is a treasure trove of vibrant cultural events, artistic showcases, and community gatherings. Among these, the Canal Convergence stands out, brilliantly illuminating the Scottsdale Waterfront every year, beckoning both locals and visitors for an immersive experience of art, light, and much more.
The Canal Convergence, a free, annual 10-night extravaganza, beautifully melds light, art, and water along the waterfront. Each year, artists from around the globe captivate audiences with their large-scale public artworks. For 2023, attendees will be treated to mesmerizing pieces like Sym by AlexP, the playful Flario by Walter Productions, the geometric Dice by Montreal-based studio Iregular, the fluid Aquatics by Philipp Artus, and several other awe-inspiring installations like Light Forest,Octavius, Ripple, and Spectrum Swing. Beyond these installations, the event is also a hub for live performances, music, dance, creative workshops, and so much more, including food trucks and a beer and wine garden.
What makes each Canal Convergence special is its central theme. This year, it dives deep into “The Power of Play,” highlighting its profound significance in our lives. Play isn’t reserved just for children; it’s a vital aspect of human existence, molding our learning, creativity, and social interactions. As the sun sets and the artworks come to life, attendees can immerse themselves in the wonders of play, feeling its influence firsthand.
For those ready to dive into this magical experience, the event runs from Nov. 3–12, 2023, at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Starting from 6 p.m. each evening, the event extends until 10 p.m. on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, and 11th of November, and until 9 p.m. on the other nights. For those wondering about parking, there’s ample free space in the parking garages around Old Town Scottsdale.
To residents and beyond, the Canal Convergence is a heartfelt celebration of creativity, unity, and reflection. Don’t miss the chance to be part of this enchanting blend of play, light, and art!
It’s always a pleasure to talk about literary giants with Chicago roots who have had profound impacts on both local history and the broader literary world. It goes without saying that no conversation about Chicago greats could happen without exploring the life and work of the legendary Gwendolyn Brooks.
Born in Topeka in 1917, Brooks relocated to Chicago while still an infant. The city’s pulsating cultural heartbeat and intricate socio-political fabric soon formed the canvas for her poetic masterpieces. Behind her ambition stood her parents: her father, a janitor with dreams of becoming a doctor, and her mother, a schoolteacher and a classically trained pianist. Both supported Gwendolyn’s passion for reading and writing.
By the age of 13, Brooks had already marked her literary beginnings, publishing her first poem, “Eventide,” in American Childhood. Her poetic prowess grew from there, and by 17, she became a regular contributor to the Chicago Defender. After her time at junior college and a stint working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Brooks further refined her craft in various poetry workshops and alongside Chicago literary peers, Richard Wright and Langston Hughes. This diligent nurturing of her talent culminated in her first poetic collection, A Street in Bronzeville, in 1945.
Brooks’s identity as an influential African American poet, author, and educator is underscored by her portrayal of the day-to-day challenges faced by African Americans. Her poetry and prose traversed a spectrum of themes – from intimate personal experiences to the African American quest for justice and recognition.
Gwendolyn’s vast literary repository boasts significant works. A Street in Bronzeville (1945) offers insights into urban Black life in Chicago. Annie Allen (1949) is a poignant exploration of a young Black girl’s journey to womanhood, and it also made Brooks the first Black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. Maud Martha (1953), her only novel, depicts the complexities of prejudice from both white people and lighter-skinned African Americans. In 1960, she wrote The Bean Eaters, showcasing her evolving poetic style and featuring the renowned We Real Cool. Over the course of her career, Gwendolyn Brooks authored over 20 poetry collections.
She also garnered numerous honors, including the establishment of the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center at Western Illinois University in 1970 and her appointment as Illinois’s poet laureate in 1976. Several schools have been named in her honor, reflecting her enduring impact on education. In 1985, she was appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. The centenary of her birth in 2017 was celebrated with special events, reinforcing her lasting literary influence.
Interested in delving deeper into Gwendolyn Brooks’ literary world? Explore her expansive collections available on the Poetry Foundation.