Bringing Unity to the Community
Elevated Freeway Underpass Project at I-17 (Maricopa Freeway) and Central Ave., Phoenix, Arizona
6200 square feet
Mixed media mosaics, metal and copper sculptures, hand-painted designs, handmade clay and tile, river rock, pottery shards, and bricks from the historic Phoenix Brickyard
“Bringing Unity to the Community” was a City of Phoenix Improvement and Art Enhancement Project. The goal of this project was to mitigate the freeway’s impact on residential areas by improving lighting, structure, and appearance. Funding was made possible through the Federal Transportation Equity Act of the 21st century grant with matching funds from the Freeway Mitigation Program. Six areas were identified as art sites and three artists were selected. Each artist created art for two different underpasses and collaborated with area students. To unify all six underpasses, all artist teams used an Arizona sky blue color, a sandy white background color, and incorporated butterflies in the public art. Maricopa (as in Maricopa Freeway) is derived from the Spanish word ‘mariposa’ which means butterfly.
The Central Connection: Celebrating Life was created by Niki Glen, Helen Helwig, Lowell Elementary School students (5th-8th grade) and neighborhood volunteers. This area marks the gateway to the Rio Salado Park in Phoenix and is adjacent to the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration area, and the imagery reflects the nature and geology of the desert habitat. Images selected include 5 species of butterflies (Tiger Swallowtail, Sphinx moth), 4 species of hummingbirds, native plants (agave, ruellia), great blue heron, flowers, and AZ themed images. Flora and Fauna from the Sonoran desert was also included.
Glen organized a community workshop, “Make Your Mark in Art”, to get more community participation in the fabrication of these mosaics. Together, the community of volunteers created 44 mixed media mosaics, metal sculptures, hand-painted designs, and handmade clay pieces.