Colorful art fills fountains in Scottsdale’s Civic Center mall

Sun Lanterns (Photo by: Brian Passey, Scottsdale Public Art)

A series of inactive fountains near the popular LOVE sculpture in Scottsdale Civic Center Mall recently received an illuminating upgrade.

Instead of water, the fountains are now filled with art.

Sun Lanterns by Eli Richard is an art installation featuring 23 solar-powered, multi-colored plexiglass and steel lanterns. In February, Mr. Richard installed the lanterns in the non-functioning fountains, directly north of Robert Indiana’s LOVE, near the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The fountains are located at the center of Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, directly over Drinkwater Boulevard. They were shut off to prevent water from further damaging the bridge that spans Drinkwater Boulevard, according to a press release.

The city plans to renovate the Civic Center Mall, but because construction will not start for more than a year, Scottsdale Public Art was asked to find a creative design solution for the inactive fountains during the Civic Center Mall redesign phase. The city allocated $30,000 of Community Arts Trust funds for the project, the press release stated.

Scottsdale Public Art then released an open call for project proposals and eventually selected Mr. Richard, an emerging artist based in Tempe. Mr. Richard’s proposal included plans for solar-powered, multi-colored lanterns of varying sizes to be installed throughout the fountains at multiple elevations.

The solar panels would absorb energy from the sun during the day and use it to illuminate the plexiglass lanterns at night.

Richard’s design was inspired by the “quiet beauty of the desert,” including the dramatic colors of the local landscape, from verdant vegetation to multi-hued sunsets.

“The color was also meant to bring a lot of energy to the space,” Mr. Richard said in a prepared statement.

Color is not only found in the lanterns themselves but in the shadows they cast on the fountains during the day — as the sun shines through them — and at night, when they are illuminated by the solar lights within their structure. Triggered by solar sensors, the lanterns flicker on, one by one, around twilight each night and turn off each morning with the rising sun.

Because of the redesign plans for the Civic Center Mall, Sun Lanterns is not a permanent installation. It is expected to remain in place for 18–24 months. It will then be donated to the city of Scottsdale for future public display, the press release stated.

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