June 10, 2020

SkySong and New Public Art Proposals

By Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker, Public Art Manager

When last we regaled you with the story of SkySong’s public art, we left off in 2014, when Ed Purver’s idea to turn the Iconic Shade Structure on SkySong’s campus into a mood ring for Scottsdale died on the design vine. By 2016, we would be ready again to select an artist to dream up a public art project to enhance the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. 

Renderings of new building plans at SkySong, 2016.

The process of selecting an artist for a public art project is generally the same across the industry. An organization releases a call for artists—which can either be a request for qualifications (RFQ) or a request for proposals (RFP). Scottsdale Public Art uses an RFQ process for calls for permanent art. We no longer require an applicant or finalist to produce a proposal until they have been approved as the project artist by our Advisory Board.

After applicants respond to the RFQ, the applicant pool is reviewed by staff and an artist selection panel made up of stakeholders from the city and community and experts in applicable fields—like an experienced public artist, as well as consultants like architects, fabricators, or others who have knowledge to evaluate whether an artist has the skills and capacity to successfully complete the project objectives. 

For SkySong, the group of finalists included two local artists. The four finalists were selected from a pool of 191 applicants. The finalists included: 

coLAB Studio, Tempe, Arizona 

RE:site Studio, Houston, Texas

Margo Sawyer, Elgin, Texas 

Mary Shindell, Phoenix, Arizona 

Once the finalists were selected, they were invited to do a site visit to learn details about the project from community stakeholders, as well as city, ASU, and Plaza Companies (SkySong’s owner) staff. After gathering initial information, the finalists were sent home to work on proposals (at the time, finalists still produced proposals during the selection process). The finalists returned to present their proposals to the selection panel in person. Aside from viewing presentations, the selection panel interviewed each finalist and asked the same set of questions in each interview.

The selection panel then deliberated on the finalists before voting to recommend RE:site Studio as the project artist and coLAB Studio as an alternate. The selection panel’s recommendation was then approved by our Advisory Board.

RE:site’s proposal focused on installing a suspended piece made of stainless steel and dichroic glass that would represent technology and data—aspects of the entrepreneurial work going on at SkySong. 

Rendering of selected public art proposal by RE:site Studio for SkySong.

We don’t have an image from CoLAB Studio’s proposal but we do have a statement from Matt Salenger of coLAB.

“The piece was based on my desire to showcase a sense of Biomimicry as innovation through demonstrating the way palo verde trees are built to survive thunderstorms with their specially flexible fibrous skeleton. We have so many fallen palo verde trees around town because people trim them so much it removes their natural ability to survive strong winds. Communicating that idea was part of the concept—that by not understanding and working to preserve nature’s strengths, we cause damage to our own case for survival.” 

Mary Shindell’s proposal had a variety of elements. The main elements consisted of metal markers based on online maps that gave information about the different mountain ranges visible from the SkySong campus. 

Renderings from Mary Shindell’s public art proposal for SkySong.

Margo Sawyer chose to propose a metal mesh that would screen the west face of one of SkySong’s buildings. The mesh would feature colorful blocks that are a signature part of her work as an artist. 

Rendering from Margo Sawyer’s public art proposal for SkySong.

Stay tuned; our next blog post on SkySong’s public art will feature an entry by RE:site Studio’s artists, Shane Albritton and Norman Lee, on the work of art they are creating that will soon grace the south Scottsdale skyline. 

Rendering of selected public art proposal by RE:site Studio for SkySong.

Read more about this history of public art at SkySong

Part 1: SkySong and Scottsdale’s Mood Ring
Part 3: Designing and Installing Sunburst

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