Public competition sustains art and water in a historic way
The Arizona Community Foundation announced the winners Wednesday of the Water Public Art Challenge, the non-profit’s third annual water sustainability contest. This year the foundation invited local artists to illustrate how ancestral Sonoran Desert people moved water — and thus life — to the Valley of the Sun.
Archaeologists credit Huhugam people, ancestors of the Tohono O’odham tribe, for engineering complex systems of irrigation canals between 450 and 1450 A.D.
It was this agricultural practice that helped settlements develop in central and southern Arizona. In other words, the foundation of Phoenix wouldn’t have been the same without the Huhugam and their irrigation farming culture.
Teams participating in the Water Public Art Challenge were asked to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that demonstrate the ingenuity of the Huhugam. The judging committee then selected five winners from 14 finalists, all of whom showcased their proposals at Phoenix Art Museum Wednesday evening.
This group of judges determined if the proposal was culturally appropriate, and if it emphasized the historical significance of the Huhugam’s contributions to the Phoenix area’s presentday existence, said Jacky Alling, chief philanthropy officer for the Arizona Community Foundation at the event. The winners are:
❚ City of Mesa, Water=Life: Making the Invisible Visible ❚ Scottsdale Arts, A Deeper Map ❚ The Continuum, Su:dagi Haichu Agga (Waters Story) ❚ Vesich eth ve:m (All of Us Together), We Are Still Here
Water Heritage Collective, Portal to the Past
The winning teams received $50,000 each to develop their public art projects in the Phoenix area. Experts from various sectors, including art, Native American culture and water utilities, made up the seven-member judging committee.
“We liked the idea of art and water, and when talking about water we can’t do that without looking at the history of the Sonoran Desert people and their impact here,” said Lisa Dancsok, foundation spokeswoman.
The Water Public Art Challenge is also the third consecutive year of the New Arizona Prize competition, sponsored by the Arizona Community Foundation, Republic Media — which publishes
The Arizona Republic and azcentral — and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.
The inaugural contest featured the Water Consciousness Challenge, where participants submitted digital strategies for raising awareness about Arizona’s water future. In the following Water Innovation Challenge, invited teams had to come up with a marketbased, water sustainability plan for a town, city, county or area.
Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team at OurGrandAZ or at environment.az central.com or Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
People peruse the Water Public Art Challenge displays Wednesday at the Phoenix Art Museum.