Arts Discovery Center, not a desert one for Scottsdale

The unexpected — isn’t that one of the joys of travel?

Jason Rose

A road house on a road trip. Barge bars on the Seine. A sun that sets perfectly on your beach. Or a sculpture park in Oslo, Norway.

When our recent, several-hour bike trip of the Scandinavian city stopped at a city park with some 200 works by a sculptor I never heard of, my expectations were somewhat like the thought of Bob Littlefield beating Jim Lane. Not good. Not high.

But as we approached Vigeland Park something remarkable was to be seen. Throngs of tours buses. Hordes of people. Families. Kids. Arts enthusiasts. Recreationists. Struck by its uniqueness I was to learn some one million people per year visit the place, making it one of Oslo’s greatest achievements, and tourist attractions.

It struck me the nascence of such a possibility for Scottsdale is at hand, at a familiar location.

We know the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall as the home of the Center for the Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, City Hall and Scottsdale Culinary Festival. But it’s also home to the LOVE sculpture and other notable works of art, including a statue of former Mayor Herb Drinkwater.

There the canvas lies to do something transcendent, much as imaginations once did in Oslo.

Contemplate the grounds of the Civic Center Mall with not several art works but dozens. Consider spending several million of Scottsdale tourism tax funds to commission and create what we would be an outdoor Arts Discovery Center of sculpture and installation like few others, rather than tens of millions on a man-made Desert Discovery Center that will never accentuate that which God created around and underneath.

I submit to readers that herein, therein is Scottsdale’s civic innovation at its best.

After all, arts have been a key ingredient separating Scottsdale from other cities. Its programs, its development, even its bus stops. But recent times have been inconsiderate to this reputation, especially with the struggles of many galleries.

The city should be applauded for strong steps it has taken via the Museum of the West and Canal Convergence to promulgate the postponement of the city’s cultural denouement.
But more can and should be done.

Fund and empower Scottsdale Arts — formerly the Scottsdale Cultural Council — to plant the grounds of the Civic Center with works large and small.  They won’t just be enrichments of the community’s soul, they will become assets and anchors of a new tourist attraction.

The notion of a “Desert Discovery Center” when a Desert Botanical Garden already exists and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is already so impressive is just silly. But once again emancipating the best in Scottsdale’s arts tendencies would be smart, and very good for business.

Editor’s note:  Mr. Rose is the president of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations.  

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