Canal Convergence | Water + Art + Light will return to Scottsdale Nov. 6–15 with noticeable changes, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, while still bringing the light-based artworks from around the world that fans of the event have come to expect.
“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.”
Scottsdale Public Art, which launched Canal Convergence in 2012, will expand the event this year from beyond the Arizona Canal at the Scottsdale Waterfront. In addition to some artworks at the waterfront, others will be located throughout Old Town Scottsdale to minimize crowding and allow for safer social distancing, according to a press release. Some artworks will even be found in locations easily visible from automobiles or bicycles.
Additionally, Scottsdale Public Art and Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation will use augmented reality technology to enhance the Canal Convergence experience with an app for smartphones. Activities associated with previous events — including workshops, artist talks and public art tours — will not have a physical presence at the canal this year, but they will instead have virtual counterparts accessible via augmented reality or online.
Entertainment will still be a part of Canal Convergence. Livestreamed performances will mix with in-person events held at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, where COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place in a controlled environment. There will not be a beer and wine garden, but with artworks spread throughout Old Town, Canal Convergence will take attendees past a variety of eateries with takeout options available.
The central theme of this year’s event is “Reconnect,” a timely focus considering how the world has been forced to find alternate forms of connecting since the pandemic began, the press release stated.
With the event kicking off only days after the U.S. presidential election, and following months of heightened tensions caused by the pandemic, Canal Convergence aims to find common ground and shared humanity through public art, addressing themes of inclusion, communication, collaboration and community engagement.
The selected local, national and international artists pushed the boundaries of their creativity to produce artworks that offer the public a way to reconnect with themselves, their neighbors, urban and natural environments and more, all while producing artworks that can safely be enjoyed while social distancing.
“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 Boston-based Masary Studios, which will install the audio/visual artwork “Massively Distributed” at Canal Convergence.
“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 is one of the multiple Canal Convergence alumni at this year’s event. In 2018, Masary Studios brought “Sound Sculpture” to the Marshall Way Bridge. Also returning this year are the Valley’s own Walter Productions (2018, 2019) and artist Casey Farina (Local Light artist in 2018 and 2019), as well Budapest-based studio Koros Design (2018).
Artists at this year’s event come from four U.S. states and three foreign countries. Because of COVID-19 precautions, none of the artworks will involve touching as some have in years past. But are all built on Canal Convergence’s foundation of light-based art, the press release stated.
“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.”
Physical art installations at Canal Convergence 2020 will include the following:
While connections to the pandemic may be evident in pieces like “Together! Responding to COVID-19,” its influence can also be felt in other works, like Farina’s “Across the Divide.”
“As the pandemic has continued, I’ve spent an increasing amount of time considering our relationship to living space through a durational lens,” said Farina, who hopes his presence as a Phoenix-based artist can draw attention to the vibrant local art scene in the midst of national and international artists at Canal Convergence.
Information about augmented reality artworks, virtual programming, entertainment options and more will be released in the coming weeks. Look for updates on Scottsdale Public Art’s social media channels and on CanalConvergence.com, where you can currently find more information about the eight artworks listed above.