September 11, 2020

Kayla Newnam: Installation Coordinator

What do you do as an installation coordinator? 

As the installation coordinator for Canal Convergence, I help figure out the plan to install different types of artworks along the Arizona Canal, as well as physically help to install the work with the artist and rigging teams.  

What does public art mean to you? 

Public art is so fun because of its accessibility. After working at Scottsdale Public Art, it really opened my eyes to the possibilities that art can create. I love dramatic, large-scale work, and I think it’s a lot more understandable to the public when you don’t have to have a long explanation to be able to appreciate it. It is accessible not only conceptually, but physically as well. It is sometimes stuffy to view artworks in a formal setting, so having a cool sculpture pop up in your neighborhood brings a sense of comfort and familiarity with each piece.  

How did you get into the field of public art and what led you to this career? 

I have always been interested in art and grew up in a very creative household. I got a bachelor of fine arts in painting from Pratt Institute of Art and Design in Brooklyn, New York. I moved back to Phoenix after I graduated and didn’t really know what to do with my life. I saw a posting for a part-time seasonal job installing artwork in Scottsdale. I applied and got to work on my first Canal Convergence as an overhire in 2016. About a year after that, I saw another posting for a full-time position at Scottsdale Public Art and got the job as the events and exhibitions assistant. From then, I moved into a position as a public art coordinator and now as the installation coordinator. I have now worked on five iterations of Canal Convergence in some form. It is such a fun job because every day is different, and each piece has a different challenge. 

What has been your favorite project to work on? 

My favorite project I have worked on was Reflection Rising by Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics. I still think that project was one of the coolest pieces that we have had on the canal. It’s so effortless and simple in its concept but had the most dramatic visual impact. I didn’t even help that much on the install, but it was just such a mesmerizing piece of art.  

What would your dream public art project for Scottsdale be? 

I like art that has a silly factor and a lot of theatre to it. There are a lot of big-name artists who could do really cool projects at Canal Convergence, but I really want to see a local artist take on a huge project and think outside of the box. Challenge!

What advice would you have for artists to get involved in public art and for people who are interested in being involved on the coordination side? 

The best thing you can do is talk to people who work in the art field you are interested in and ask questions. Applying to be an overhire for Canal Convergence each year is the best way to start. It lets us get to know you, and vice versa, in the context of art making without any pressure on needing to know everything—just hard workin’.

What do you do in your free time or outside of work? 

I am a mural artist! Check out my work here.

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