Interactive art exhibit part of Phoenix’s efforts to promote innovation

People interact with art as they stand and manipulate what they see in front of them at “The Intersection,” a temporary exhibit in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Gilbert Cordova/Cronkite News)

People interact with the art displayed on the windows at the A.E England Building in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Gilbert Cordova/Cronkite News)

The historic A.E. England building in downtown Phoenix turned into an exhibit that combined technology with art to bring new life to empty windows last weekend.

The exhibit – called “The Intersection” – was part of the city’s ongoing efforts to promote innovation.

“It’s innovation combining digital technology and art to create this entirely new approach to artwork in downtown,” said Edward Lebow, the city’s public art program director.

The Mayor’s Office launched its “Innovation Games” – community challenges that highlight the use of technology or innovation – in April 2015.

The city held a “hackathon,” which brings together computer programmers and others to collaborate, to develop a web or mobile application to help reduce waste. It also conducted a streetscape design challenge that called for innovators to design a transit-oriented streetscape at Phoenix’s next proposed light rail station.

This interactive art exhibit wasn’t necessarily a challenge to the public, but a spokesman for Mayor Greg Stanton said it was an internal challenge to the arts department to make public art more engaging to a new generation using technology and art.

“I really just wanted to make sure we are doing something very interactive, that when people come downtown they have a great art experience and the artists have really blown me away in terms of how creative they have been,” Stanton said. “They have truly made this an interactive experience, so as you walk by the window panels in the historic building, you create the art.”

The exhibit cost an estimated $30,000, and it was commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program with additional support from Downtown Phoenix Inc. and Friends of Phoenix Public Art.

The exhibit highlighted photography from artist Hector Primero, who used photos of new and old Phoenix, and Dustin Farrell, who used landscape photography of Arizona.

Primero, a Phoenix native, said he feels honored to have his work shown in this new way, but it’s the bigger picture that has him excited.

“It’s something pretty groundbreaking,” he said. “I think it is something the city of Phoenix can really use on some of these empty windows you see driving through at night because it makes it come alive.”

As bystanders walked past the exhibit, the artwork changed.

“This particular exhibit is about humans’ interaction with their environment, and the ability to manipulate the environment,” said Adam Wheeler, one of the project directors.

Although the city does not have another exhibit planned, both the mayor and city officials said they would like to expand the project.