Olivier Ratsi “Spectrum (Frame Version),”

"Information Flow" by Justin Winters and Walter Productions, is an interactive light sculpture that represents the hidden digital network of communication surrounding us. It's one of eight physical art installations showing at Canal Convergence this year.

Remember last year’s Canal Convergence?

Where families crowded around the hands-on artworks and workshops?

Where line after line of patrons waited for a cup of craft beer made with recycled water?

Where the hordes of spectators lined Arizona Canal for each showing of Walter Productions’ popular fire show?

This year, attendees can expect a much different experience. 

Scheduled Nov. 6-15, Canal Convergence will do away with on-site live music, its beer and wine garden, and more than 130 hands-on artworks, activities and workshops that drew 300,000 people last year.

This year, Canal Convergence organizers are planning new offerings, including expanding the physical footprint of the art experience.

What that means is artwork will be placed beyond Arizona Canal at the Scottsdale Waterfront to areas throughout Old Town Scottsdale, in an effort to minimize crowding and allow for safer social distancing. 

Some of the artworks will even be placed in areas visible from attendees viewing from their cars or bicycles.

Also notably new to Canal Convergence this year is the use of augmented reality technology, which aims to enhance the Canal Convergence experience via smartphone app.

Canal Convergence’s c will replace the physical presence of activities, including workshops, artist talks, and public art tours, and the live entertainment that was once scattered throughout the Waterfront area. 

Performances will be live-streamed and held in-person at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, where COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place – such as timed entry and spaced seating.

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts’ reopening and return to performances also includes livestream ticket options, including the upcoming Jazz con Alma performance on Sept. 26, from home.

In response to the pandemic, this year’s theme experience is “Reconnect.”

“This is a year where we have all been impacted by COVID-19’s devastating effects on our way of life,” said Kim Boganey, director of Scottsdale Public Art. “Canal Convergence is no exception to these changes and will pivot in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved, including our visitors.”

Organizers hope to “find common ground and shared humanity through public art, addressing themes of inclusion, communication, collaboration and community engagement,” the press release states.

Scottsdale Public Art specifically chose a mix of local, national and international artists who push the boundaries to create art that offers the public a way to not only reconnect with themselves and their neighbors but also enjoy at a distance.

“Each of the Canal Convergence artworks provide unique and meaningful ways to reconnect with friends, neighbors, and the city of Scottsdale through art,” said Jennifer Gill, public art manager for Canal Convergence. 

“Even though the look and feel of this year’s event has had to change due to pandemic restrictions, we are proud to say that the tradition of exceptional light-based public artworks remains the same,” Gill continued.

Boston-based MASARY Studios, for example, will showcase a “community-driven public art expression” called “Massively Distributed” that features sampled sound and visual textures from the Scottsdale area. 

“This year has challenged us, as artists, to think differently, to create work that is durable and safe even in a pandemic,” said Ryan Edwards of MASARY Studios. “But as public artists, we are already in that space, for the most part. I think this pandemic is emphasizing how important public art really is, and the artists and presenters who embrace that are really thriving.”

MASARY Studios, who brought “Sound Sculpture” to the Marshall Way Bridge in 2018, is just one of three returning artists this year.

The other returning artists include Walter Productions, Casey Farina, and Budapest-based studio Koros Design — one of three foreign artists.

OGE Group from Haifa, Israel will introduce “Together! Responding to COVID-19,” a 32-foot-high light sculpture of multicolored hands holding each other and forming the shape of a heart.”

Farina’s “Across the Divide” will treat attendees to a generative video installation that uses projection mapping across multiple windows “to produce visual habitats where abstracted human forms reside.”

Farina said he hopes the artwork will draw attention to the vibrant local art scene.

“As the pandemic has continued, I’ve spent an increasing amount of time considering our relationship to living space through a durational lens,” he said.

Information: canalconvergence.com