Architects Jin Choi and Thomas Shine thought they had seen it all.
“We’ve been to Norway. We’ve been to Iceland. We’ve seen the most breathtaking landscape all over the world – we believed,” Choi said.
And then they visited Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon near Page.
“We almost cried,” Choi said. “We thought, ‘we’ve seen it all,’ but it was just something else.”
That’s where Choi and Shine of Choi+Shine Architects got the inspiration for ARIZONA!, one of 10 large-scale installations showcased above and throughout the Scottsdale Waterfront during Scottsdale Public Art’s Canal Convergence Water + Art + Light event Nov. 9-18.
Choi and Shine wanted to capture the beauty of Antelope Canyon and what created it.
“The force of nature, especially wind and water over time, carved out this beautiful land, and we wanted to express that and the people’s effort and struggle to make the establishment,” Choi said.
To do so, Choi and Shine used the idea of lace “as a transparent force that goes in and around the canal and meet the water and meet the city and meet the people,” she said.
The lace symbolized the weaving of people, but in the end, it did also physically brought people together.
Choi and Shine sent detailed hand-crocheted designs to more than 100 experienced crochet volunteers in Arizona, New Jersey, California and beyond. Once the crocheting was completed, volunteers from all walks of life came together in Old Town to put it all together.
“It’s a phenomenally diverse cross-section,” Shine said. “We have people here who have MAGA hats, and there are people who have their rainbow flags and everything in-between, and they all come together for the art, and they’re all happy together. It’s an usual way of sort of crossing all those boundaries that don’t normally cross.”
Community and collaboration echo across all aspects of this year’s now 10-day Canal Convergence event.
“Look up the word ‘convergence’ and it talks about collaborations,” said Karen Churchard, director of tourism and events for the City of Scottsdale.
One collaboration that helped expand and turn Canal Convergence into a destination event involved Scottsdale Public Art, the City of Scottsdale and Salt River Project.
SPA and the City of Scottsdale’s goals for the event included not only attracting people to the state during the month of November, which is considered a need period for Scottsdale’s tourism industry when hotels and resorts in the area typically see a decline in group business, but to also continue to showcase quality, sustainable and interactive art.
“It’s really about enriching people’s lives with art and with also enriching the city and the local businesses and supporting them through the artwork,” said Jennifer Gill, public arts manager at Scottsdale Public Art.
“Everybody loves the event,” Churchard added. “When we talk about the types of events that we want to see in our Old Town downtown area, many of the merchants and gallery owners will point to Canal Convergence.”
To further support the businesses in the downtown area, Canal Convergence is taking the light-based artworks off the Waterfront and expanding through Old Town via Local Light, which runs through Dec. 31.
As part of Local Light, SPA will place light-based installations created by local artists along 5th Avenue, Stetson Drive and Marshall Way in Scottsdale’s Gallery District, creating a path of art and light between the businesses and the canal.
“Scottsdale really has seen a revitalization with the public art and Canal Convergence and having a weekly art walk versus a monthly one,” said Nicole Royse, curator and owner of Royse Contemporary in Old Town.
“It’s a huge deal for artists because so many more people could see their work, and I thought that was really important because that’s the whole reason why I do what I do. It’s great for us. It’s great for them and it just, it activates the entire city,” she added.
As far as the artwork included at Canal Convergence, Gill said SPA encouraged artists to use sustainable efforts.
“Whatever the installation is, it’s got to be recyclable; or, after Canal Convergence, it has another life. It’s not just going to a landfill,” she said.
In addition to being sustainable, the art, including ARIZONA!, is interactive, as well.
For instance, Re-Cyclone by Martin Taylor and the Chromaforms Art Collective is 20-foot-tall, 10-foot-diameter, rotating sculpture made from 5,000 upcycled plastic water bottles. The interactive element is people can rotate the sculpture with a hand-wheel at the base, which will trigger the LED lights to react and show off different lighting sequences.
Then there’s Floatus by Walter Productions.
“With the Floatus installation, we’ll have a control panel where you can do your own LED light show with the different lotus sculptures in the water.
“There are so many amazing things that you can touch and feel and kind of create your own art within the artwork,” Gill said.
In addition to the interactive art installations, Canal Convergence will also consist of 28 fire shows, a 67-foot-long “ice” tunnel and plenty of supporting events, including free educational activities, live music, community bike rides, poetry readings, dance performances and hands-on activities like natural dye workshops, screen printing as part of Family Days on Nov. 11 and Nov. 18.
Canal Convergence may have had intentions to bring the community together starting Nov. 9 with its planned immersive art experience, but it seems it started early – from ARIZONA! volunteers congregating to create a massive piece of art to partnerships among the arts and the city to bring to fruition such an ambitious, multi-day event.
“The final product is the art, but making them together is the art in itself,” Choi said.