July 23, 2019

The giant, colorful playground along the Scottsdale Waterfront that is “Canal Convergence” kicks off Thursday, but the free, four-day event with music, large-scale interactive art and food trucks will be minus one anticipated world debut.

Technical difficulties forced Scottsdale Public Art on Tuesday to scratch “Play Array,” a version of classic video games Pong and Frogger set alight inside the Salt River Project canal that visitors would have been able to play using their smart phones.

Illuminated, floating art has been the visual stunner of previous Canal Convergence events. Conceived as a biannual event, Scottsdale Public Art decided on a once-a-year spring Canal Convergence to up the wow factor and to allow more time for massive installations, made difficult by moving water and lighting.

Public Art was confident in the abilities of the “Play Array” Brooklyn artists’ engineering and electrical skills, but it didn’t come together, said Donna Isaac, Scottsdale Public Art director.

“It is always a learning process,” Isaac said of installing art in the canal. “It is a living water system … moving through to a treatment facility.”

“The Pool,” anticipated to be the runner-up star attraction, is a go. Conceived by Denver artist Jen Lewin, the piece has been displayed at well-known events including Burning Man in Nevada and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and typifies the colorful, interactive experience that Scottsdale Public Art strives to provide.

The installation is comprised of more than 100 raised pads that light up as people run, jump, skip and stand on them. Smaller groups create a smaller splash of color across the pool; larger groups create a riot of color.

“Wherever we have taken it — and we’ve been to really different cultures — it’s immediately liked by babies up to grandparents,” said Lewin, who has also installed the work at events in Singapore and Australia. “There’s a quality of delight and playfulness that people really respond to.”

The spring Canal Convergence is in its third year and has grown in offerings, budget and attendance. The temporary festival has become a major offering to the city’s cultural scene by Scottsdale Public Art, once more widely recognized for large statuary and freeway art.

About 40,000 people are expected this year, up from 20,000 in 2013. The budget is $190,000, and includes both taxpayer funds and those of major sponsorships. Last year’s budget was $101,000.

Merchants around the Scottsdale Waterfront’s Soleri Bridge and Plaza and downtown Scottsdale say activity near the canal is good for business. A survey of past visitors indicated that 50 percent visited Canal Convergence from outside the Scottsdale area, according to Isaac.

“We hear from the people who go to it and then come down Fifth Avenue, and the talk is pretty positive, especially at night when everything is lit up,” said Sandy M. Daiza, of Sewell’s Indian Arts, a nearby gallery. “We benefit every time there is something going on around the (Soleri) Bridge. We get more traffic coming to downtown Scottsdale, and that helps everybody.”

In addition to the major art pieces around the canal, visitors can expect live music, tables of handmade crafts, make-and-take-home art workshops, and the debut of a wine-and-beer garden on Friday and Saturday evening. Dancers with the Los Angeles-based Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre will perform two dance pieces on the Soleri Bridge on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

A community canal bike-path ride that tours some Scottsdale Public Art pieces and features talks with some of the artists who created them is Saturday morning.

While Scottsdale Public Art has never had to cut a major installation in the canal before, it’s not the first time marrying moving water and art has proved difficult.

In last year’s event, one of the glowing floating bugs on the surface of the water in “Water Striders,” started to sink toward the end of its run. Another piece called “Jellies in the Sky, Cacti in the Water” featuring color-changing fiber optic sculptures had to be monitored and shifted because of debris that naturally floated down the canal.

Canal Convergence

All installations and events are in and around the Scottsdale Waterfront, southwest of Scottsdale and Camelback roads.

 5-10 p.m., Thursday and Friday.

• Noon to 10 p.m., Saturday.

• 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday.



“The Pool”

Denver artist Jen Lewin’s sculpture features 106 intuitive pads that respond to pressure and speed as you run, jump and play within the artwork. One or two people in the “pool” create small, colorful splashes, while the movement of more ignite a cacophony of color. The Pool has been shown throughout the world in placed like Singapore and Australia and well-known events such as Burning Man in Nevada and South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

“My Your Our Water”

Valley artist Erin V. Sotak has traversed the canal bike paths on a tricked-out tricycle as part of a social investigation of humans and our relationship to water. The images projected at Canal Convergence at night document her canal travels and those submitted by contributors at


Phoenix artist Saskia Jorda asks, “What if the Scottsdale Waterfront suddenly became a resting stop for a visiting flock of birds?” The playful, toy-like bird silhouettes embody adventure, restlessness, nomadic experimentation and the freedom of exploring new places.

“The Artwork Forge”

Could this machine put artists out of a job? Pittsburgh artist Toby Fraley developed a complex algorithm purporting to create a technically perfect piece of artwork in just minutes.

Beer and Wine Garden

New this year is a beer and wine garden on the Soleri Bridge and Plaza on Friday and Saturday evening. A meet the artists happy hour will be from 5 to 7 p.m.on Saturday, Feb. 28.

Community Canal Path Bike Ride

A free, guided bike ride on Saturday, Feb. 28 along the Arizona Canal Trail explores Scottsdale Public Art sites. Riders should gather at 10 a.m. on the Soleri Plaza. Tour departs at 10:30 a.m. Highlights include the Water Mark permanent installation and five artists along the path discussing their works.

Heidi Druckler Dance Theatre

Los Angeles-based Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre performs site-specific dance pieces at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 on the Soleri Bridge. Illuminated dancers investigate fluidity and cycles of circulation and growth, between the contrast of the solid structure of the bridge and the impermanence of the flow of water.

Article by AZ Central