August 18, 2023

50 Years of Windows to the West—A Celebration of Louise Nevelson’s Monumental Sculpture 

Windows to the West by Louise Nevelson was recently relocated to the western side of Scottsdale Civic Center following renovations to the outside space. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Louise Nevelson’s Atmospheres and Environments XIII, commonly known as Windows to the West, is celebrating 50 years! Help us honor this milestone by learning about the history of the artwork and by joining the anniversary celebration on October 26, details below.

Windows to the West is the oldest large-scale public artwork in the city of Scottsdale’s collection. In the early 1970s, the National Endowment for the Arts selected Scottsdale as one of four cities to receive a Works of Art in Public Places matching grant to install a monumental work by an outstanding American sculptor. Scottsdale was the first small city to receive this grant, and Louise Nevelson was chosen as the artist. The other cities chosen at the time were Houston, Seattle, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Prior to renovations at Scottsdale Civic Center, Windows to the West by Louise Nevelson was located on the east side of the outdoor space, southeast of Scottsdale City Hall on 75th Street, shown here in 2019. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Nevelson is considered to be one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century. You may have seen her smaller-scale work in painted wood; there is one in the Phoenix Art Museum’s collection. While in her 70s, Nevelson began to work in steel, only three years before Windows to the West was commissioned.

Louise Nevelson is shown, holding flowers, during the 1973 dedication of Windows to the West. Photo: Scottsdale Public Art archives.

Unveiled in November 1973, Windows to the West marks the first Cor-ten monumental sculpture by Nevelson in the Southwest, and it is her largest architectural sculpture in the western United States, standing at 14 feet tall. She considered herself an “architect of shadows” in her work, due to her interest in negative space, shadows, and silhouettes. 

Nevelson originally titled the piece Atmosphere and Environment: Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Fine Arts Commission added the title Windows to the West at the dedication in 1973. The 1973 dedication featured performances created especially for the event, an eight-person square dance performance, live music performed by Scottsdale Community College band, and an exhibition in the library.

In 2003, Windows to the West was disassembled and transported to a conservation expert in Beacon, New York, who did a thorough cleaning, replacement of corroded parts, and re-patina. It has been in its current home, serving as an entrance to Scottsdale Civic Center between the West Paseo and the West Bowl, since January 2023 following the renovations of that section of the project. It is now closer to both Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which, like Scottsdale Public Art, are departments of the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts.

Come celebrate 50 years of Windows to the West, as well as Scottsdale’s newest public artwork, The Desert’s Garden, on Thursday, Oct. 26, from 4–6 p.m., at Scottsdale Civic Center. More information coming soon to

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