Canal Convergence lights up Scottsdale

The gray skies hanging over downtown Scottsdale this past weekend framed the town with a slight sense of gloom as clouds threatened (and minutely delivered) rain.

However, the poor weather didn't keep people from strolling along the water and seeing the bands, shops and art that crafted the Canal Convergence event that ran from Feb. 26 to March 1.

The four-day showcase, sponsored by the Salt River Project and Scottsdale Public Art, showcased works from international, national and local artists — each with a message to convey to those who passed through.

Beginning at the main plaza on the bridge, a row of white tents lined one side of the canal with pop-up vendors selling anything from jewelry, to hot sauce, to a local board game (in retrospect, I wish I had checked that out).

Two spots opened up for local music acts to match not necessarily the tone of the weather, but the pace of the event with some atmospheric tunes.

Ending the vendor row was a music stage, where I caught an interesting and melodic set from Phoenix band Wooden Indian.

They played host to a small but attentive crowd, while others stopped by the local beer and wine garden, a small space that held craft beer makers, Two Brothers Brewing, in one tent and a selection of wines in the other.

Back along the canalwas Erin V. Sotak, an artist in residence with Scottsdale Public Art who is working with SRP on a conservation effort titled, "My Your Our Water," which began in June last year.

It seeks to promote and raise awareness about water preservation and as its lead, Sotak's approach to the effort is as unique as her enthusiasm, which is infectious.

"The idea is it's 'my water, your water, our water,'" she said.

Sotak motioned to a "tricked-out" tricycle, which she uses to ride along the canal's 121-mile, multi-use paths in the mornings.

She talks to those who use the paths, offering up a multitude of different facts about Arizona's water use and how it's delivered.

"They don't know that this is a working waterway," Sotak said. "This is actually delivering water to the municipalities."

She encourages those interested to send pictures of their water use for her to use in the project's blog.

Soon the overhead gloom gave way to night, and it was here that Canal Convergence began to light up. The crowd increased as traffic from the surrounding shops poured over, but there was enough to keep folks entertained.

Near the beer garden sat "The Pool," a beautiful interactive sculpture created by Colorado artist Jen Lewin. Circular pads sat on the grass and became a mini playground for kids and adults alike, as their bright colors shifted with each step.

A nearby sign about the installation said that Lewin "sought to recreate the effect of engaging with water by programming each pad to react to human movement with ripples of dynamic color and luminosity."

This is the end result:


All the lights on the ground are stars.

#canalconvergence #scottsdale #beautiful

A video posted by Damion Julien-Rohman (@legendpenguin) on

Back on the main plaza, a line continued to form for "The Artwork Forge," a machine designed by Pennsylvania artist Toby Fraley, and commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art and ASU Emerge. For only a dollar, the machine takes a small piece of wood and paints an image onto it.

Fraley said that the theme behind the forge was "choices and decisions."

"I was thinking, in the future of choices and decisions, there's just too many," he said. "And as a way to simplify life, maybe we have these artwork forges that you just throw in a dollar, and it'll decide for you."

When asked how it works as far as image selection went, Fraley was light on details.

"You have to have a little suspension of belief," he said with a smile.

A fun night all around, Canal Convergence brought the lights to downtown Scottsdale in an upbeat way for all ages.


Reach the reporter at, or on Twitter @legendpenguin.

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