September 4, 2020

Wendy Raisanen: Curator of Collections and Exhibitions

What do you do as a (job title)?

My job as curator of collections and exhibitions is to take care of the city of Scottsdale’s public art and municipal art collections and run the exhibition program that we have in the Appaloosa and Civic Center Libraries. During this pandemic, only Civic Center is open, so we’re just exhibiting there for now.

What does public art mean to you?

Public art is what makes a city special. It’s the perfect demonstration that art is good for everyone. Art elevates our lives, and public art does that for the community, for the people. It gives us something memorable to pose with for Instagram pics too. 

How did you get into the field of public art and what led you to this career?

I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in sculpture and took a job here as a part-time gallery attendant, thinking I was going to be an artist, but needed a little money.  HA! I ended up loving what we do here and working in three different divisions over the last 30 years! I think my sculpture training helps me understand how art is made, the materials and construction techniques. That helps me know how to maintain and restore the collection.

Knight Rise by James Turrell. Photo: Sean Deckert.

What has been your favorite project to work on?

There have been many, but I can easily cite two. First, helping to install the incredible James Turrell exhibition at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), which made it possible for me to visit Roden Crater with our Visions students. And second, being part of the beginnings of what has become Canal Convergence. It started out as a small performance and light experience night with local artists and has grown into such an impressive event with international artists for thousands of people to enjoy.   

What would your dream public art project for Scottsdale be?

Something that people love, that cleans itself, and looks amazing all the time.

What advice would you have for artists to get involved in public art and for people who are interested in being involved on the coordination side?

Public art usually takes a long time to get finished, and there’s a lot of people involved. It’s not like creating by yourself in the studio. And think about your materials; they need to last forever. And forever might mean 50 years or 150 years. Or more. 

Jack Knife by Ed Mell. Photo: Sean Deckert.

What do you do in your free time or outside of work?

I love fiber arts and sewing. I’ve been sewing since I was a girl. I’m making graphic quilts, clothes, costumes, clothes for my grandkids.  I’m also sewing up COVID masks

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