Canal Convergence prepares for 2020 light-based art event

Above: Canal Convergence. Experience AZ | 6 Feb |

In November of 2019, Canal Convergence | Water + Art + Light saw record attendance as more than 290,000 people visited the Scottsdale Waterfront during the event’s 10-day run. 

Now, Scottsdale Public Art has just released a request for proposals for Canal Convergence 2020, emphasizing a theme of “Coming Together, Shared Values, and Open Dialogue.” The intent is to encourage artworks that engage the public in a way that allows them to look past possible differences and participate in a shared experience. It is a challenge to artists create light-based public art that allows the public to find their collective common ground. 

As with previous years, the RFP is likely to attract artistic talent from around the world for the light-based public art event. The 2019 event brought in artists from four U.S. states and four foreign countries as attendees painted with water and light on a massive board of LEDs from France, lit up multicolored clouds from New Orleans by swinging, watched laser lumia from Michigan dance across towering bridge pillars, hugged to illuminate a sleek LED artwork from Russia and immersed themselves in a tranquil wave of light and sound from the U.K.

“These artworks successfully addressed the 2019 theme of ‘The Story of Water’ through a variety of light-based, interactive and performative artworks focusing on water’s impact on our lives historically, psychologically and socially,” said Jennifer Gill, public art manager for Canal Convergence. “For 2020, we endeavor to repeat the success of years past by engaging local, national and international artists to present artworks that focus on inclusion, communication, collaboration and community engagement in response to the current global social and political environment.” 

A major draw for Canal Convergence 2019 was the hourly fire and light performance, choreographed to music, which had attendees lining the canal banks 20 to 30 minutes before each performance. The fire came from the back of a nearly 200-foot metallic serpent, floating on the canal, that doubled as a stunning piece of contemporary art between shows.

Canal Convergence began in 2012 as a two-day event with six artworks, 12 programmatic elements, and an estimated attendance of 5,690. It expanded to a four-day event in 2013, and attendance began to increase. In November 2018, Canal Convergence moved from a spring timeslot to the fall and became a 10-day event with 18 artworks and 175 programmatic elements. This change more than tripled the previous year’s attendance figures and earned Canal Convergence the coveted Gold Grand Pinnacle Award from the International Festivals & Events Association.

“Canal Convergence has grown from a public art experience into a way for the community to have meaningful conversations about the arts, sustainability and how we can be better citizens,” said Kim Boganey, director of Scottsdale Public Art. “The year 2020 will be a defining year in many ways, and Canal Convergence is a great forum for exploring this thematically.”  

In recent years, Canal Convergence has focused on sustainability with a goal of becoming a zero-waste event. The 2019 Canal Convergence closed in on that goal with 93% of waste diverted from the landfill, up from 86% diversion in 2018.

Among the new sustainability-related initiatives in 2019 was the One Water Brewing Showcase in partnership with Scottsdale Water. With Scottsdale’s designation as the first Arizona city permitted to treat recycled water for potable use, the showcase became the first beer festival in the world to feature only beers made from recycled water. 

But Canal Convergence is not just a place for attendees to enjoy art. It also gives them a chance to learn about art and create it. In 2019, Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation directed a diverse mix of artist talks, school programs, youth workshops, tours and drop-in activities. These experiences engaged all ages in the themes of water, art and light through hands-on activities that sparked creativity and inspired learning.

“I enjoy designing experiences for people to get an insider’s view and hear the stories behind the art, so that is why I focused on including the artists that were exhibiting along the waterfront in our programming,” said Natalie Marsh, director of Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation. “I think our visitors like to hear those stories too, and that’s why we saw these workshops and our Sunset Art Tours selling out well in advance of the event.” 

Canal Convergence will return to the Scottsdale Waterfront from Nov. 6–15 with 10 more days of art, entertainment, creativity, learning, food and drink. Selected artworks will be announced over the summer with additional elements to follow. Visit CanalConvergence.com for details.

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