The south bank of the Arizona Canal through Old Town Scottsdale is now more colorful and more environmentally friendly thanks to a new artwork series called “Traceries.”
In May, Scottsdale Public Art and Scottsdale Solid Waste Services installed a series of eight brightly colored, artist-designed recycle/trash bins at the Scottsdale Waterfront between Goldwater Boulevard and Scottsdale Road. All eight bins were designed by Chandler artist Mary Neubauer.
“I am fascinated by the geometries of tilings and tessellations, and I have incorporated this interest into the design of many of my public artworks,” Neubauer says. “The rotating patterns give a sense of energy and dynamism to the overall designs, playing out in real-world silhouettes, combined with geometric complexity.”
Each “Traceries” bin has a double layer of steel sheet metal, the top layer including tracery designs that are powder-coated in bright contrasting colors. The design themes feature butterflies, desert flowers, whirling impellers and hummingbirds.
Scottsdale Public Art teamed with Scottsdale Solid Waste Services for the project. Both organizations wanted to address Scottsdale’s need for a utilitarian recycle/waste bin while also adding public art features to the canal waterfront. The two organizations have worked together in recent years during Canal Convergence | Water + Art + Light in an effort to make it a zero-waste event.
“Our goal is to inspire and challenge others on how to reduce their overall waste footprint,” says Dave Bennett, operations manager for Scottsdale Solid Waste Services. “The waterfront bin project is a great example of reusing material to make another product. Most of the metal we used to build the new containers came from discarded refuse dumpsters.”
During the Canal Convergence event in November 2018, attendees had the chance to see designs for this project by three different artists and then vote for their favorite design. Neubauer’s design received the most votes.
“Mary went above and beyond with her workmanship and design on this project,” says Tanya Galin, public art coordinator for Scottsdale Public Art. “She turned utilitarian objects made out of recycled steel into stunning pieces of public art for people to enjoy along the canal.”
Bennett says the new bins are an improvement on the former containers at the canal, which were difficult to locate and often led to litter in the area. But the design and colors of new bins immediately capture the attention of people visiting the waterfront area.
“It’s amazing what one can do with discarded metal,” he says. “The containers look great and are built to last.”
Neubauer says she used a digital 3D modeling program to experiment “widely and freely” with colors, surfaces and light environments in the virtual world. Her daring approach to design and color helped her combine purpose-built art with clear practical connections to sustainability. Through the project, she realized even utilitarian objects like waste receptacles can be given life and pizzazz through design upgrades.
While the project began simply to contribute to the zero-waste goal at Canal Convergence and help promote recycling at the Scottsdale Waterfront year-round, it resulted in a series of visually stunning pieces of art.
“I see the project as an educational tool, when it comes to thinking about the role of responsible recycling and waste disposal as part of civic life,” Neubauer says. “I hope the beauty and fun of these containers will inspire people to think about trash and recycling in a new and different way.”
Neubauer’s sculptures and prints can be found in numerous public and private collections. She has completed more than 45 public art projects in the United States and abroad. In the past two decades, her sculptures and digital images have appeared in New York; Paris; Beijing; New Delhi; Florence, Italy; Singapore and Adelaide, Australia. Neubauer has been a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome; a Fulbright Fellow in Cambridge, England; and a Ford Fellow at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is a President’s Professor of Sculpture at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.