Instead of water, the fountains in Scottsdale Civic Center Mall are now filled with art. Sun Lanterns by Eli Richard is an art installation featuring 23 solar-powered, multi-colored plexiglass and steel lanterns. In February, Richard installed the lanterns in the nonfunctioning fountains directly north of Robert Indiana’s Love, near the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
The fountains were shut off to prevent water from further damaging the bridge that spans Drinkwater Boulevard. The city plans to renovate Civic Center Mall, but because construction will not start for more than a year, Scottsdale Public Art was asked to find a creative design solution for the inactive fountains during the redesign phase. The city allocated $30,000 of Community Arts Trust funds for the project.
Scottsdale Public Art then released an open call for project proposals and eventually selected Richard, an emerging artist based in Tempe, Ariz. Richard’s proposal included plans for solar-powered, multi-colored lanterns of varying sizes to be installed throughout the fountains at multiple elevations. The solar panels would absorb energy from the sun during the day and use it to illuminate the plexiglass lanterns at night.
Richard’s design was inspired by the quiet beauty of the desert, including the dramatic colors of the local landscape, from verdant vegetation to multi-hued sunsets. “The color was also meant to bring a lot of energy to the space,” says Richard.
Color is found not only in the lanterns themselves but also in the shadows they cast on the fountains during the day — as the sun shines through them — and at night, when they are illuminated by the solar lights within their structure. Triggered by solar sensors, the lanterns flicker on, one by one, around twilight each night and turn off each morning with the rising sun.
Because of the redesign plans for the Civic Center Mall, Sun Lanterns is not a permanent installation. It is expected to remain in place for 18–24 months. It will then be donated to the City of Scottsdale for future public display.
Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale
For more info, visit scottsdalepublicart.org.