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Scottsdale Public Art: Windows to the West

As part of our ongoing public art series, we’ve been exploring exceptional creations to be found across Scottsdale, from the unique Water to Water, to the latest installation, Pinball Wizard. Today however, the spotlight is on Windows to the West, Scottsdale’s first public art installation and one that still inspires the city today after more than 50 years in the city. 

In June 1970, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the City of Scottsdale a $20,000 matching grant to commission its own notable work of art by an American sculptor. The NEA program, Works of Arts in Public Places, would go on to fund more than 700 works of public art across the country, and Scottsdale was the first small city they approached at the time. 

Two years later, in February 1972, the City of Scottsdale finished raising their $20,000 of the matching grant, and the Scottsdale Fine Arts Commision chose acclaimed sculptor Louise Nevelson to create the first work of public art for the city. Nevelson, who is regarded as one of the best sculptors of the 20th century, completed the expressionist sculpture out of monochromatic corten steel designed to patina with time. Its abstract structure and shapes resemble some of her other iconic creations. 

Louise Nevelson, the creator of Window to the West, Gazing at her other artwork, 1978, Courtesy of Dixie Guerrero, ©Pedro E. Guerrero Archives

Although the sculpture was originally titled Atmosphere and Environments XVIII, thanks to its westward placement after its completion, it quickly became known as Windows to the West. Since its dedication in 1973, the sculpture has remained a treasured landmark of Scottsdale and continues to showcase how far the city’s appreciation for art has come.

Today, due to renovations on the Scottsdale Civic Center where the Windows to the West lived, the sculpture is in storage until the construction is finished in 2023. When it returns, art enthusiasts can expect the beloved sculpture to find its new home closer to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, but with the same western spirit as before.

50 Years of the Chicago Public Art Group

Chicago’s vibrant public art is just one of the many things that make the city so magical. From Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain in Millennium Park to Art on theMART and Lakeview’s storied murals, otherworldly art installations bring life to nearly every neighborhood. Today, we’re spotlighting an organization that has filled the city with meaningful public art and provided a space to foster community engagement for 50 years, the Chicago Public Art Group.

History of the Chicago Public Art Group

The Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG) was founded in 1972 by William Walker and John Weber, inspired by the destruction of a mural Walker had completed in 1967 on the side of a tavern in Bronzeville. The 20-by-60-foot mural, known as The Wall of Respect, was created to protest Black erasure and honor 50 heroes in the Black community. 

The wall featured a montage of portraits, including those of Aretha Franklin, Gwendolyn Brooks and Miles Davis. It featured seven sections that split the public figures: statespeople, athletes, rhythm and blues, religion, literature, theater and jazz. After its completion, the mural instantly became a mark of cultural pride and a popular tourist attraction on Chicago’s South Side. The mural was vandalized in 1971, but its spirit lives on through public art across the country and especially within the CPAG today. 

Mount Greenwood Musical Playground, James Brenner

After the mural’s destruction, Walker and Weber formed the CPAG to forge partnerships with artists and communities across Chicago to transform the urban landscape. From used walls and streets to urban structures, the organization used every tool they had access to amplify their voices. 

Celebrating 50 Years

Today, CPAG is celebrating its 50th year after creating nearly 1,000 works of art throughout the Chicago area. From the Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial in Chicago Lawn to the Mount Greenwood Musical Playground, the organization has completed murals, sculptures, earthworks, playgrounds, mosaics and everything in between. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial, Chicago Lawn, Sonja Henderson & John Pitman Weber

And although each piece resides in a different neighborhood, they are all rooted in the same three core principles: everyone deserves to experience great art, every community deserves a voice and art-making, and public art encourages community investment. CPAG also continues to share the same values they’ve held for 50 years, uniting artists and organizations to produce art that reflects the beauty of the surrounding community. 

For those interested in becoming involved with the organization, CPAG mentors, trains, inspires and supports children and adults across the city and provides everyone with the tools and confidence they need to bring their visions to life. Learn more about how you can get involved and discover more of CPAG’s inspiring art creations here!

Architecture as Subject in Art

If you look closely, architecture and its influence are in almost everything, from the clothes someone is wearing on the street to the more obvious building they may be walking past. We’ve previously touched on the inherent connections that architecture and fashion share, but arguably even more significant is architecture’s relationship with fine art. Today, we’re exploring how some artists have adopted architecture as a subject in their art throughout history. 

In Western art it wasn’t until the 16th century that architectural paintings popularized across Europe as an independent genre. The genre encouraged artists to use architecture as the predominant subject in the painting by using both exterior and interior views. Before then, architecture was mainly used as a background, providing balance for the rest of the painting. 

The genre centralized in Flanders and the Netherlands with artists like Hans Vredeman de Vries, and it became a staple of the Dutch Golden Age art. Vredeman de Vries’ Fountain in the Courtyard of a Palace is one of the earliest architectural paintings, leaving a great influence on the art and architecture of Europe for decades. The painting displays grand Corinthian columns lining a stretched arcade. The arcade leads to a lavish courtyard in the background and, in the foreground, a fountain. 

Oath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louis David, 1784

In 1784, French painter Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii became a triumph among the public and remains renowned today. The large painting depicts a Roman legend of a dispute between two cities. In the foreground, six life-size figures pose like actors on a stage, each displaying a different character. The geometry and depth of the setting’s architecture become emphasized due to David’s use of harsh, slanted light throughout the space. 

Café Terrace at Night, Vincnet van Gogh, 1888

Vincent van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night is another acclaimed architectural painting. Van Gogh completed the oil painting in 1888 in Arles, France. The setting exhibits a brightly lit terrace of a coffee house under a night sky. To the right, a tree’s branches slightly come into view above a lighted store underneath, and in the background, a shaded church tower ascends above the city.

Like fashion, the connection between art and architecture is innate. Artists may find inspiration from the unique architecture around them, while architects may discover influence from a specific style of architecture in painting. And for decades to come, these collaborations will continue to happen, expanding and advancing the art and architectural world.

A Guide to This Seasons Art Exhibitions

With bustling art communities in both cities, Chicago and Scottsdale are regularly home to some of the most widely recognized exhibitions throughout the country. From a lush garden installation in Chicago to an interactive building exhibit in Scottsdale, both have plenty of thrilling shows to enjoy this autumn. For Optima residents looking to experience some of the most inspiring shows of the year, here are the ones you can’t miss: 

Chicago

Roughly 25 miles Southwest of Chicago, the Morton Arboretum is home to one of the area’s most stunning exhibitions of the year, Human+Nature. The outdoor art exhibition features eight unique sculptures that range from 15 to 26 feet tall. The artist, Daniel Popper, used hard-wearing materials like glass-fiber reinforced concrete to construct the sculptures to endure Chicago’s winter weather. While Popper used the arboretum and its mission as the inspiration for many of the sculptures, he encourages visitors to connect to the stunning surroundings and discover a meaning of their own. Human+Nature runs through May 2023, and you can reserve tickets here

Human+Nature, Daniel Propper, Morton Arboretum

Through February 2023, Chicago’s Driehaus Museum off of the Magnificent Mile is home to Capturing Louis Sullivan: What Richard Nickel Saw. The exhibition captures the demolition of many of Sullivan’s buildings in Chicago in the 1960s and 70s through the lens of activist Richard Nickel. Ultimately, the exhibit celebrates Sullivan’s architectural legacy and the unwearying efforts many activists took to save it. Reserve tickets here.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is observing its 50th anniversary throughout 2022! Flourish: The Garden at 50 is an ongoing installation celebrating the connections between art and nature. Through September 25, 2022, the garden features artwork from both local and foreign artists. The event features pop-ups and performances, including a mariachi band on September 24 and 25 and various exhibitions looking towards its future. Find tickets to the celebration here

Scottsdale

Found in the heart of Mesa, the i.d.e.a. Museum’s latest exhibition, Imagine, Design, Build!, invites its guests into an environment rich in color and experience. The interactive exhibit features 40 works by 15 artists around the world, ranging from paintings to LED installations. With a focus on the science and art of design, visitors beyond the gallery have various interactive opportunities, like designing a building of their own! Find tickets here

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is also home to various thrilling exhibitions this fall. Ending on October 9, 2022, Brad Halhamer: Swap Meet showcases the work of Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer. From its sculptures to musical performances, the diverse exhibition explores the uncertainty of identity and the nomadic art practice. 

Three Parallels, Phillip K. Smith III, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Opening October 29, 2022, Phillip K. Smith III: Three Parallels is another exhibit coming to SMoCA as part of their Architecture + Art series. The site-specific installation presents itself as an interactive exhibit for visitors. Using vibrant colors, light shifts and large-scale mirrors, each step in the exhibition provides a new perception of the exhibit’s space. Tickets for both exhibitions at SMoCA can be found here

And the list doesn’t end here! So with autumn in full gear, grab friends and family to enjoy these two special cities in artfully exciting ways.

Scottsdale Public Art: Pinball Wizard

Scottsdale’s appreciation for art enables artists to publicize their talents and add to the environment’s imaginative aesthetic year-round. From initiatives like IN FLUX Cycle 10 to classic installations like Knight Rise, Scottsdale proudly embraces the impact behind sharing art with others. Today, we’re spotlighting Scottsdale’s latest addition of public art, Pinball Wizard

Completed in June 2022, Old Town Scottsdale welcomes Pinball Wizard as the city’s newest public art installation. Public Artist Annette Coleman worked with Scottsdale Public Art to design and construct the vibrant project using colored glass. Coleman is well-known for her illustrative mosaic public art installations, many of which reside in Colorado, and embraces a public art philosophy rooted in stimulating inspiration and creating community. 

Pinball Wizard resides at the Stetson Plaza Splash Pad at the Scottsdale Waterfront and features 30 disco-like mosaic orbs and various mosaic waves built into the environment. Designed to catch light from every angle, the myriad of shapes and bright colored glass in Coleman’s design embraces the playful attitude that already fills the area. 

Annette Coleman installing Pinball Wizard, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art
Annette Coleman installing Pinball Wizard, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art

Drawing inspiration from her appreciation for the outdoors, specifically water, wind, flora and fauna, Coleman included various serpent-shaped waves throughout the concrete wall of the splash pad. Her inspiration behind Pinball Wizard, and many of her other projects, also draws from television shows, games and science productions, and other pop culture references. 

Pinball Wizard brings a splash of color to the already lively surrounding at Scottsdale’s Stetson Plaza Splash Pad. Visit the public art yourself and hear more from Coleman about its creation here

Women of the Bauhaus

In “The Other Art History: The Forgotten Women of Bauhaus,” an in-depth piece that was published on July 13, 2018 on Artspace by Jillian Billard, we have the opportunity to understand the enormous impact a group of women visionaries had in shaping the Bauhaus.

We learn from Billard that the Bauhaus was dedicated to “interdisciplinary innovation” by combining design and craft through a new model of fostering community as the basis for learning instead of traditional teacher-student interactions. And with this new model as a defining principle, the Bauhaus community was ripe for welcoming and supporting women artists.

As Billard explains, Walter Gropius, who founded the Bauhaus School of Design in Weimar, Germany in 1919, stipulated that the school would be open to “any person of good repute, regardless of age or sex.” So while women were allowed to study at the school, they were directed into practices commonly regarded as “women’s work” –– textiles and weaving — while their male counterparts were encouraged to be architects, sculptors, and painters.

Photo of Alexa von Porewski, Lena Amsel, Rut Landshoff, unknown by Bauhaus photographers Umbo and Paul Citroen), before 1929. Berlinische Galerie, Photographic Collection.

Billard reminds us that the artists most closely associated with the Bauhaus were men, including Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. At the same time, history has treated the women in the movement as the counterparts of these great artists. In the past ten years, as many have revisited the Bauhaus participants in a more accurate art historical context, we have had the opportunity to celebrate the incredible women artists and the contributions they made. 

In “The Women of the Bauhaus,” an extensive thesis presented by Corinne Julius in Blueprint on September 3, 2019, we learn of the rise to prominence of Gunta Stölzl, only one of six students certified as a Master weaver. As head of the department from 1929 to 1931, she ushered in the transition from individual pictorial weaving to modern industrial designs, while also implementing the study of mathematics. Her bold artistic experiments include creating the mercerised cotton and Eisengarn fabric for Breuer’s tubular-steel chairs while leading joint projects with the Polytex Textile Company.

Julius describes Marianne Brandt as a brilliant metalwork artist who joined the Bauhaus as a workshop assistant and eventually took over as acting director in 1928 from László Moholy-Nagy. As both artist and administrator, Brandt helped solidify the role of industrial design 

Wera Meyer-Waldeck entered the Bauhaus in 1927, studying with Marcel Breuer in the carpentry workshop making furniture. Over the next several years, she studied in the construction and architecture departments, and went on to establish a distinguished career with a focus on sustainable housing.

And the list goes on. As we shared in Female Weavers and the Bauhaus, virtually every aspect of the Bauhaus and its artistic practices has been informed by a group of women with talent, vision and unapologetic courage. They, along with their male counterparts, continue to inspire the timelessness of Modernist thinking-and-doing. And in every part of our holistic design thinking at Optima, we celebrate their contributions.

Wera Meyer-Waldeck in the carpentry workshop at Bauhaus Dessau in 1930, photographed by Gertrud Arndt. Credit: VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019 / Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin

For further reading on 45 luminary women of the Bauhaus, Bauhaus Women: A Global Perspective, written by Elizabeth Otto and Patrick Rössler and published in 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing, is an excellent resource, along with A Tribute to Pioneering Women Artists (Taschen, 2019), written by Patrick Rössler.

Scottsdale Public Art: IN FLUX Cycle 10

No matter where you find yourself in Scottsdale, you’re sure to run into one of the city’s many works of public art. IN FLUX is one unique initiative exclusive to Arizona that is empowering emerging artists to innovatively apply their creativity to temporary works of public art in Scottsdale and other communities throughout the state. Learn more about IN FLUX and their 2022 additions here:  

What is IN FLUX?

IN FLUX began as an initiative formed by various art organizations in and around the Phoenix and Scottsdale area in the early 2010s. Scottsdale Public Art launched the project to provide Arizona artists with the opportunity and resources to create temporary public art installations throughout the state. 

Since IN FLUX’s inception, it has expanded tremendously, now reaching more than 53 locations across eight cities in Arizona. Thanks to the initiative’s commitment to spotlight and aid some of the state’s emerging artists, not only does the work greatly impact the artists themselves, but it also supplies communities with inspiring works of art. 

Each cycle of IN FLUX begins when they seek out submissions from artists across the state. Their team then carefully chooses a limited number of artists to commission a unique work of temporary art that becomes displayed throughout the year. This year marks the launch of IN FLUX Cycle 10!’

The Magic of Water, Yuke Li, Courtesy of Scottsdale Public Art

IN FLUX Cycle 10

IN FLUX Cycle 10 introduces 13 new artists and artworks throughout six cities in Arizona, including four unique pieces that will live exclusively in Scottsdale. Installations for the temporary artwork in Cycle 10 concluded in June of 2022, and each piece will be on display for a minimum of a year. Here are the four artists featured in Scottsdale:

Hector Ortega 

Reliance

Found on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Oak Street

Installed May 25, 2022, through June 30, 2023

Christopher Luber

Fragmented Reflection 

Found on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Roosevelt Street

Installed May 25, 2022, through June 30, 2023

Yuke Li 

The Magic of Water

Found on the south side of Thomas Road between N 81st Way and N 82nd Street

Installed May 9, 2022, through June 30, 2024

Shirley Wagner 

Zenith, Surge, and Bliss

Found at Miller Plaza on the northeast corner of Miller Road and Indian School Road

Installed June 28, 2022, through June 30, 2023

Reliance, Hector Ortega

We’re ecstatic to see more of the stunning artwork helping to bridge the Valley into one community and celebrate the talented artists included IN FLUX Cycle 10 and future cycles. Make sure to observe the temporary artwork yourself throughout the next year before IN FLUX Cycle 11 welcomes a new group of emerging artists!

Chicago Public Art: Art on TheMART

Chicago is home to a myriad of stunning public art experiences, where each complement their encompassing environment. In this spirit, the city’s largest work of public art, and the largest permanent digital art project in the world, Art on theMART, embraces its surroundings unlike any other installation in Chicago. 

The now-beloved contemporary art project originated in September of 2018 as more than 30,000 fled to the Chicago Riverwalk to watch the historic Merchandise Mart building transform into a work of art. Following its launch, Art on theMart has hosted nightly projects created by countless artists, ranging from the current exhibitioner Nick Cave to the inaugural artist Jason Salavon

Every evening, 34 projects – sprawled across the Riverwalk itself – help project multiple works of digital art across its 2.5-acre facade. TheMART takes advantage of the latest immersive art technology, using various mapping techniques to ensure every projection fits perfectly to the Art Deco details of theMart. 

While all of the projections showcased at Art on theMART utilize the giant facade of theMart to showcase bright colors and complex imagery to catch the attention of viewers, the installations also comprise bespoke audio elements, creating an even more immersive experience.

Art on theMART, THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU, Barabara Kruger

Current exhibitions include explore by Jonas Denzel and Billiken by Shkynna Stewart and Wills Glasspiegel beginning at 9 p.m. and at 9:30, Ba Boom Boom Pa Pop Pop by Nick Cave, running concurrently with the Furthermore installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Only a 15-minute walk from Optima Signature, prime locations to witness the marvelous exhibition are found across the river from theMart on Chicago’s Riverwalk and West Wacker Drive.

Ellison Keomaka Art at Optima Lakeview

Optima Communities wouldn’t be the same without the striking artwork that fills their public spaces, ensuring a playground of form and color around every corner. Recently, we sat down with artist Ellison Keomaka – who previously contributed to 7140 Optima Kierland and our other Arizona properties – to discuss the process and inspiration behind the 80 unique artworks that now call Optima Lakeview home. 

What did the creative process look like when first conceiving and planning the artwork? How did the architecture and design of the building influence and inspire your piece?

When we first began talking about the project, I didn’t realize I was going to be creating artwork for the majority of the building, which was kind of a first for me. And after touring Optima Lakeview in 2021, I realized that I was going to be able to take advantage of its grand layout. 

Funlove 0022 and 0011 by Ellison Keomaka at Optima Lakeview

I set out to create a modular system where I could make everything unique. And yes, some paintings share the same colors, but each one is still different. I created the paintings in sets of, on average, seven pieces, separated by size and painted to adapt to any space. My ultimate goal was for building residents and visitors to see something new when walking the corridors and never see the same painting twice. So that was my aesthetic mission — to create an experience for the people in the building to have an indoor gallery where they can see all these different pieces come together. 

We’ve learned that you’re often experimental, using anything from soil to fabric to add texture to your artwork – what materials did you use for these particular pieces, and why?

I used a significant amount of spray painting here. Street art has been a huge influence on my career and I wanted to incorporate that into my work. I find spray paint offers a very unique texture, so I used it liberally in these particular paintings. I also used pages from magazines, many of which were from the 50s and 60s. In a few of the works, I was able to incorporate original Chicago Cubs advertisements as a way to add a subtle historical element. 

Ellison Keomaka working on the Creamsicle series, Courtesy of Ellison Keomaka

What role does color play in this work?

I worked with Optima’s signature use of bold, bright contrasting colors when creating much of the work. When I toured Optima Lakeview, I was able to see the colors of the atrium, specifically the vibrant red beams used throughout the skylights. And even though the building wasn’t completely finished, I knew exactly what color palette I wanted to incorporate.

I also tried to push the envelope with some of the colors. Some of the blues are off-blues or a little bit away from the primary color. And then there are the paintings that are yellow, red and blue – Primary 3 – that look simple but were actually very challenging for me in their own way because, as an artist, I always like to do more instead of trying to do less. There are also spray-painted pieces that include brownish blues, called Smores, which I originally called Earth Wind and Fire after the band from Chicago. They include this coffee brown with really bright blues mixed into it, which I thought was a fun way to bring warmth into the pieces while still maintaining a bold standard of color.

Airmax 001 by Ellison Keomaka at Optima Lakeview

You’ve talked to us before about how working with music is a large part of your artistic practice. Did music have any role in your creative process for Optima Lakeview’s art?

I think it always does for me. For the first pieces I created, the YBG series, I remember listening to The Weeknd’s After Hours album. I had all of the pieces lined up and was dancing around, having so much fun with them. It was almost like a childlike experience where I didn’t have any rules and was very free with the motions. There was no rhyme or reason, and I let the shapes do their thing. I used an acrylic paint pen to pull some bold black sweeping lines. They reflected the freedom of movement I felt while listening to music. So again, the music made it pretty fun. 

Ellison Keomaka working on the Creamsicle series, Courtesy of Ellison Keomaka

Four particularly special pieces live in Optima Lakeview’s lobby – the Mindscapes. How do those differ from the other pieces in Optima Lakeview and what makes them so unique?

The Mindscapes are a grand project I’ve been developing for the past couple of years. They’re each a visual time capsule that are just really fun to observe. They capture a dream state of imagination with abstract colors and shapes but then incorporate these very clear images of historical moments or memories. Everything found in them is relevant to Chicago, from old newspaper clippings about Lakeview restaurants and high schools to Cubs momentos. Each piece is totally unique, and they all include little hidden stories. Again, I wanted people to be able to walk around, stare at a painting for a little while and come back to see something they hadn’t seen before. 

A piece from the Mindscapes series by Ellison Keomaka at Optima Lakeview

Anything else we should know about the creative process for this piece or the work itself? 

A few of the pieces are inspired by landmarks in the neighborhood, specifically Red Totem, which is based on Kwanusila found in Lincoln Park. When I was doing my research on the community, I found the totem and liked the colors, which I then used in the painting. Others, like the Fun Love series, were more dynamic because they all had the white splatter that almost becomes energizing when you look at them. Those took the longest time for me to feel like they were complete, because of all the layers of paint that had to dry. 

The 80 paintings that fill Optima Lakeview mirror the vibrant aesthetics that we strive to create in our communities. As with every piece of artwork that we display in our built environments, Ellison Kemoaka’s bold and inspiring work brings a unique story for residents as well as anyone who passes through the space to discover. 

The Health Benefits of Living With Art

No matter which Optima community you’re in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by art. Whether it’s Ellison Keomaka’s inspiring paintings found in several of our Arizona properties or the vibrant sculptures created by our CEO and Founder David Hovey Sr., FAIA, each piece of art in our communities brings with it not only a story — but a wide range of health benefits, too. Here are just a few of the benefits of living with art: 

Keeps Your Mind Active

Similar to the feelings you get when you interact with a loved one, viewing art increases blood flow to the brain, kickstarting a wave of pleasure and positive memory-building while allowing the viewer to practice their cognitive skills. Whether looking at a landscape, portrait or an abstract work, because art is truly subjective, it allows the brain to explore different areas we may not use in daily life. This free-thinking stimulates the mind and strengthens it similar to the way learning a new language does. 

Reduces Stress Levels

Art therapy is regularly used as a natural way to reduce anxiety and other mental disorders in everyone from children to older adults, and even if creating art isn’t your cup of tea, living with art provides the same benefits. Viewing art can calm the brain through the most trying circumstances by allowing it to focus on a singular thing. Worries and stressors are minimized as your mind directs its attention to the relaxing and often inspiring art pieces around you.

Encourages us to Emotionally Heal

Because artists use their work as a way to give shape to their ideas and emotions, living with art encourages us to explore our emotions and past experiences. By viewing art, it’s common to feel transformed and to be taken to places beyond our reality. This metamorphic experience improves well-being and, depending on the person, can be sensorially, emotionally and even spiritually mending. 

Whether you need an inspiring escape, want to relive positive memories or simply crave a masterpiece of your own, the health benefits behind living with art are boundless and accessible by everyone.

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