Scottsdale Welcomes ‘Birdie Umwelt’

Scottsdale Public Art dedicates new bird sculptures by Mary Lucking

Scottsdale Public Art celebrates the opening and dedication of Birdie Umwelt by a Phoenix-based artist Mary Lucking on May 17 at the Mustang Library and Transit Center in Scottsdale.

Birdie Umwelt is an avian-themed installation of 20 small, bronze sculptures of finches reading pages from published books that a bird might find to be particularly interesting. The installation also includes a birdhouse inspired by the architecture of the nearby Mustang Library and a series of bird and feather images sandblasted into walking paths along the connecting greenbelt. The birds are gathered around the library and the adjacent Mustang Transit Center, both of which are located near the roundabout on 90th Street.

Birdie Umwelt by Mary Lucking PHOTO BY MARY LUCKING

“When I first visited the Mustang Transit Center site, I was struck by the number of birds that made their homes around the library,” says Lucking. “Thinking about the differences in the way we humans and birds use and perceive spaces, I wondered what books in the nearby Mustang Library these creatures might find most compelling. Birdie Umwelt is a physical manifestation of this flight of fancy.”

The installation was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art to become part of the Fine Art Collection of the City of Scottsdale. The first 10 bird sculptures, the birdhouse and the sandblasting were completed in November 2017 as Lucking worked with the library’s landscape architect to place the sculptures and sandblasted designs. The final 10 bird sculptures were added this spring.

Those in attendance will receive a commemorative bookmark, designed by Lucking, that speaks to the unique nature of this artwork and its library location. Before creating the art, Lucking had birdhouse-shaped suggestion boxes placed in the library for patrons to propose books for the project. She combined those suggestions with her own selections and others from the librarians and members of the transit center team to determine which books would be featured in the completed artwork.

Scottsdale Public Art then had to obtain permission from the publisher and/or author of each book in order to reproduce just one page for each sculpture. It typically took about four to six weeks to obtain each permission, though one request took about five months to process. Among the featured books are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne.

Lucking’s work ranges from large-scale, permanent artworks to temporary, interactive installations. Her projects include art incorporated into urban and rural walking and biking trails, public transit stations, college campuses and neighborhood parks.

“I come to every project with an open mind, working with the community and design team to create a piece that responds to the specific qualities of the space,” Lucking says. “My aim is to delight, to intrigue and to invite people to look more deeply at what is already there.”

The books, birds and birdhouse were fabricated locally by Bollinger Atelier and E2 Innovations.

“Birdie Umwelt” Dedication

May 17, 10 a.m.

Mustang Library and Transit Center, 10101 N. 90th St., Scottsdale

For more information, visit

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