- Location: South Mountain Community Library, Phoenix, AZ
- Client: Maricopa County Community College District/ Phoenix Office of Arts & Culture
- Size: Three seats 2’w 8′ l x 5′ h/ Four trellises 10’w x 13′ 8″l x 8′ h
- Materials: Steel, concrete, audio, stone, and shadows
- Budget: $155,000
- Poetry/Curation: Alberto Ríos
- Poets: Dick Bakken, Jefferson Carter, Jeanne E. Clark, Ralph Cordova, Cynthia Hogue, Will Inman, Sydney James, Susan L. Krevitsky Law, Jimmy Lo, Rick Noguchi, Fernando Pérez, David Ray, Christine Rhein, Iliana Rocha, Lois Roma-Deeley, Jana Russ, Peggy Shumaker, David Sullivan, and Olfelia Zepeda
Over the past 8 years we have been involved with the rapidly changing environment of the South Mountain area of Phoenix. During that time this area of citrus orchards and flower farms became a built-up residential community. We have been able to contribute to the pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian connections, and to the public image of this community through a series of projects: Arbors & Ghost Trees (2004) for Baseline Road and The Zanjero’s Line (2009) for the Highline Canal Trail that have been completed and the soon to be built Western Canal Bridge. Passage creates another link in these trails, one that relates to the others and adds new artistic ideas particularly fitting for the new South Mountain Community Library.
Passage is a multi-faceted, collaborative public artwork. The South Mountain Community Library is operated jointly by the Phoenix Public Library and South Mountain Community College. Used by students and the community at large, the Library is a magnet for community identity and the spirit of learning. To reflect this energy, we wanted to integrate visual elements with words. With the help of noted local poet, Alberto Ríos, we focused with poetry onto the South Mountain landscape, the quality of words, and the contents of the Library. The project consists of four Poetry Trellises and three Acoustic Chairs.
The three Acoustic Chairs are grouped in front of the Library’s main entrance. They extend the architecture of the Library into the landscape, relating to South Mountain. The seat surface of the Chairs is made of local Hualapai stone.The sides of the Chairs are made of colored concrete with steel letters cast into the surface. Letters are also embedded into the surrounding pavement, as though cascading from the Chairs. Each letter of the alphabet is represented in the jumble as well as the letters that make words that reference the landscape such as “desert,” “stone,” “mountain,” and “water”. The scattered letters encourage visitors to make their own words and poetry.
Speakers inside the Chairs play recordings of poetry when activated by motion sensors. The poems play softly to create an intimate experience. Ríos curated the collection of poems, featuring 19 poets writing about South Phoenix and the landscape of the area.
“Sunset” by Ofelia Zepeda (Where Clouds Are Formed/ The University of Arizona Press, 2008) read by Siân Heder
“My Public Library/Mi Bibloteca Pública” written, translated, and read by Alberto Ríos
In addition, for National Poetry Month 2012, Ríos edited a community poem that was added to the Acoustic Chairs. The Library solicited submissions of two lines about South Phoenix, which Ríos constructed into a poem in the tradition of the Japanese form called the renga or “linked elegance.” The completed poem is: Baseline Blooms, A South Mountain Community Poem.
Four Poetry Trellises span the path as it runs past the Library and towards the Western Canal. Letters welded to the canopy project shadow lines of poetry onto the path. The shadows shift with the sun to offer a constantly changing experience.
Alberto Ríos wrote these four couplets specifically for the project. The four couplets can be read individually or as a whole poem.1. Diamond-clad snakes and plants made of needles, This valley of constant imagination 2. Shade– small fragment of night, cool Dream’s breath on the back of your neck 3. When first raindrops hit dry mesquite pods, Ancient songs fill the desert 4. South Mountains –Slow waves in the ocean of this desert