February 27, 2021

At this time a year ago, planning for Canal Convergence 2020 had already begun . . .

As the Request for Public Art Proposals (RFP) for Canal Convergence was published and new and exciting artwork plans started rolling in, the world around us suddenly began to change. As winter faded to spring, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 had become a stark reality, and the prospect of gathering thousands of people at the Scottsdale Waterfront became highly unlikely. But instead of postponing or canceling, we decided that because of all the conflict and uncertainly brought by the events of 2020, Canal Convergence, an immersive art experience that unites people in joy and wonder, was needed more than ever.

Together! Responding to COVID-19 by OGE Group, Canal Convergence 2020.
Photo: Chris Loomis

To move forward with Canal Convergence 2020 in a way that would be safe for all involved, we realized that many typical aspects and features of our event had to change. As a result, the artwork spacing and form of interactivity had to be reevaluated, realizing we would have to forgo any artwork that required physical touch for activation. Also, the beer, wine and food garden, on-site performances, and basically any component of past Canal Convergences that would cause people to gather in groups had to go. While this required change created many obstacles, it also opened the door to new methods of engagement that otherwise we may not have ever pursued.

Mask-wearing Canal Convergence 2020 attendees enjoy Spectrum (Frame Version) by Olivier Ratsi. Photo: Chris Loomis

Our live music and dance, as well as our educational programming all went digital. For the first time, we also now had the opportunity to spread out the footprint of Canal Convergence throughout downtown Scottsdale. Redistributing the artworks over a three-mile area lessened the chance of crowding at any one location, as well as offering people the chance to do a driving tour of the art in case they did not feel comfortable walking around in public just yet. And finally, we debuted an augmented reality (AR) channel that included artist talks and AR artworks as a part of the Canal Convergence experience.

Canal Convergence 2020 augmented reality channel experiences for Together! Responding to COVID-19 by OGE Group (L) and Kukulkan’s Portal by Liquid PXL (R).
Screenshots: Scottsdale Arts

We are both pleased with and proud of the Canal Convergence 2020 event. After a difficult year due to the pandemic, social and political strife, and an extremely contentious presidential election, we presented an engaging art experience that focused on what brings us together and how we can reconnect as a community through art.

So, just like last year, the planning for Canal Convergence 2021 (November 5–14) has already begun. Though the pandemic is still a clear and present danger, with the developments of the past few months we are hopeful that we will be able to return to an event with live performances, food and drink, and a variety of interactive artworks.

The 2021 central theme is one that has always been a key component of Canal Convergence, but this year will take center stage: Art and Technology.

Fences by Immerge Interactive, Canal Convergence 2020. Photo: Scottsdale Arts

The combination of cutting-edge technologies with public art has made possible some of the most exciting and innovative artworks Canal Convergence has ever seen. Through this year’s theme, we intend to expand the public’s understanding of technology’s role in artmaking and explore its impact on society as a whole.

The request for Canal Convergence 2021 public art proposals will be posted on soon. If you are an artist interested in applying, email [email protected] to be added to the Canal Convergence open call email list. For general information, sign up for our newsletter on the Canal Convergence homepage.

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