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Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art marks 25 years at spring opening

photo of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
A view of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Old Town Scottsdale. (Photo by Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art remains beacon of artistic expression
By Brian Passey | Scottsdale Arts

A quarter-century ago, architect Will Bruder turned a former movie theater into the stylish Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and on Friday, Feb. 9, Scottsdale Arts will celebrate the 25th birthday of the Old Town museum.

“For 25 years, SMoCA has been an integral part of the artist community in the Valley as a place to highlight the best of our local talent and beyond,” said Jennifer McCabe, SMoCA’s director and chief curator. “The transformative ability of our institution makes it the ideal space to highlight a multiplicity of art mediums and innovative events. We have been a gathering place for creatives, and we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.”

SMoCA’s 25th Birthday Celebration + Opening on Feb. 9 will feature signature cocktails, treats from Pinwheel gourmet rolls food truck, music from DJ J-ME LEE, a performance by artist Carolina Aranibar-Fernández and live music. Activities will take place inside the museum and outside the front entrance.

The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. It is open to the public and free to attend with RSVP.

“We cannot wait to commemorate the occasion with special throwbacks, fun photo ops and more surprises throughout the museum all evening,” said Julie Ganas, curator of engagement and digital initiatives. “Whether you have been coming to SMoCA for 25 years or are new to visiting the museum, we want to celebrate our vibrant community, thank you for your support and toast to the future together.”

The evening will also fete the opening of two new exhibitions: “Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage” and “Carolina Aranibar-Fernández: Oleaje.”

“Color Mirage” is the first major U.S. museum exhibition on the prolific yet underrecognized American painter Dorothy Fratt (1923–2017), who spent more than half of her life in Arizona. Ms. McCabe co-curated the exhibition with Lauren O’Connell, SMoCA’s curator of contemporary art. It is accompanied by a beautiful coffee table book of Ms. Fratt’s colorful, abstract paintings.

The Fratt exhibition officially opens on Feb. 3, six days before SMoCA’s 25th Birthday Celebration. Scottsdale Arts ONE Members can obtain free tickets to preview the exhibition from 11 a.m. to noon that day. It will then open to the public at noon.

“Oleaje” will officially open to the public at noon on Feb. 10, the day after the celebration. Again, there will be a member preview hour from 11 a.m. to noon that day for any Scottsdale Arts ONE members who don’t make it to the Feb. 9 event.

This exhibition features the work of emerging artist Carolina Aranibar-Fernández and is curated by assistant curator Keshia Turley. “Oleaje,” Spanish for “Groundswell,” features new large-scale installation works by the Bolivian-born artist, who maps and memorializes the rippling effects of the global trade industry.

(Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art remains beacon of artistic expression

Prior to the establishment of the museum, Scottsdale Arts (formerly the Scottsdale Cultural Council), curated exhibitions in the atrium of what is now Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

In the 1990s, the council decided to complement the center — completed in 1975 with a design from the prominent architect Bennie Gonzales — with a stand-alone museum. Award-winning architect Will Bruder was chosen for the task of adapting the adjacent five-screen United Artists cineplex for this purpose.

Replacing the earth tones of the former movie theater, Mr. Bruder clothed the existing stucco structure in an eggplant/gray palette. He also added an oblong service pod of galvanized metal on the west side of the building and a softly curving entrance pod, also of galvanized steel, on the east. The pods are a friendly nod to the bull-nosed volumes of the neighboring Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Prominently featured at the southeast corner of the museum is “Glass Scrim Wall,” a public artwork by James Carpenter Design Associates of New York City. The green glass sheets shudder around a curve with a joinery of dichroic glass spacers that form a vibrant, lantern-like effect around the building. The wall creates a courtyard space that currently features the mural “Environ” by Phoenix-based artist Janel Garza and a permanent public artwork, the “Knight Rise” Skyspace by internationally known, Arizona-based artist James Turrell.

Inside, Mr. Bruder’s minimalist and ingenious design has five galleries, a retail space and a multi-use area recently renamed _ space (blank space). Because Bruder, Carpenter and Turrell all worked together to create the signature art and architectural volumes that define SMoCA, materials, colors and forms echo throughout the building. The museum officially opened on Feb. 14, 1999.

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