Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remnant of an Arts debacle

This photo is of one of the few remaining signs of a public art project that caused so much controversy that it has slowly disappeared from site. In the mid-80’s while building a new freeway in the heart of Phoenix, a public art project was envisioned as a way to diminish the bland ugliness of noise-abatement walls slicing through neighborhoods as the freeway snaked north. The firestorm that ensued was fueled by a local media woefully naive about the value of art, who pushed the public ire from civil dialogue to rant and tirade. Further stoking the fires were irritated local artists upset that the project was awarded to out of state artists. Interestingly, the project was lauded by the rest of the world and harvested awards and admirers. The original project was called Wall Cycle to Ocotillo and was to consist of a series of vessels made from concrete and steel, some attached to the wall like this one, some sitting on top of the wall, and some beside the wall at exit and entrance points. They soon became known, somewhat disparagingly as the Squaw Peak Pots taking the name from the former name of the highway. Over the years, most of the pots have been removed to make room for expansions to the freeway.

At the time this was going on, I was living in Mesa (neighboring city) and was very active in the arts community there. The thunderous controversy over this particular project made it difficult for all of us involved in art projects to get anything done. Thank heavens the years have made the community wiser and art is now huge part of all aspects of life in Phoenix and the surrounding cities.


David -- said...

I remember driving that freeway to work everyday during that time period. One person who opposed the freeway pots public art project spray painted a toilet bowl gold and put it up on the freeway wall.

At times there were traffic jams at rush hour as people slowed down to look at the pots as new ones appeared on the tops of the sound barrier walls.

Ming the Merciless said...

I am a stronger believe in supporting local businesses and artists, but you are right. We will never learn new experiences or gain knowledge if we don't look outwards for inspiration.

About a decade ago, our then mayor, Rudy Guiliani had an African art piece pulled from the Brooklyn museum because he (the purveyor of good taste...NOT) deemed it offensive. This was obviously before he paraded his mistress around town while still being married to wife #2.

*gets off soap box*

Sharon said...

Ming, I agree completely. You can stay on the soap box as far as I'm concerned.

Lucybug33 said...

now you need to head to N. Scottsdale and get pics of the really pretty "freeway" art along the loop 101. it's cool