September 10, 2022

Making a Splash: Bringing Color to the Stetson Plaza Splash Pad

Pinball Wizard by Annette Coleman is located at Stetson Plaza in Old Town Scottsdale. Photo: Annette Coleman

Stained-glass mosaics adorn 28 colorful spheres, and waves are imbedded into a new concrete bench. The effect is a fun and sophisticated look that activates the Stetson Plaza Splash Pad and surrounding gathering space near Marshall Way Bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront.

This is Pinball Wizard by the Colorado-based artist Annette Coleman. The playful spheres harken back to simpler times as children, playing jacks, shooting marbles, playing four square, and competing as ultimate pinball wizards. Pinball Wizard was designed for families to enjoy and as a backdrop to gatherings along the waterfront.

Whenever a new public artwork is installed, the artist is often asked how it was created. Coleman shares her thoughts below on what it took to bring this work of art to life.

“The sphere creation process takes time,” Coleman says. “Thinset concrete mortar, high-density foam, PVC pipe, and stained-glass tesserae are employed in the process. Thousands of tesserae are all hand cut and placed. For Pinball Wizard, before fabrication could begin, myself, the Scottsdale Public Art Advisory Board, Scottsdale Public Art staff, and city of Scottsdale staff needed to agree on the artistic direction. This was accomplished by using sketches, early construction of test spheres, and budgeting to see if the idea I envisioned could move forward. For public art projects, everyone, including engineers and conservators, weigh in on the idea and give feedback on feasibility of the artwork.”

Annette Coleman applies tesserae to one of the Pinball Wizard spheres. Photo courtesy of Annette Coleman.

“For Pinball Wizard, the concrete infrastructure needed to be addressed,” Coleman continues. “When the waterfall was turned off to make way for the splash pad, the small steps that made up the earlier water feature became a potential hazard for visitors climbing. We elected to encapsulate the steps with a functional bench for families and visitors to enjoy while watching their children play in the water. The spheres were also positioned to be used as a fun selfie location. I cannot wait to see more exciting shots of weddings and family reunions going forward. #PinballSelfie would be a great hashtag to follow all the fun.”

The Pinball Wizard sphere await high-density foam insertion. Photo: Annette Coleman.

“After months of presenting and refining different ideas, budgeting, and figuring out timelines, the mosaic fabrication began in my Colorado studio,” Coleman says. “Beach balls, BOSU balls, and playground balls were sourced to make the forms. I used thinset concrete mortar in several layers over concrete mesh tape, directly on the balls to form an eggshell-like structure. To support the glass tesserae and public interaction, the empty shells were filled with a high-density foam, using a PVC pipe inserted in the bottom to sleeve over a metal pipe support for mounting.”

PVC pipe in each sphere sleeves over a metal pipe for mounting the components of Pinball Wizard. Photo: Annette Coleman.

“Twenty-eight spheres were covered with approximately 23,846 one-inch stained glass tiles, which are all hand cut,” Coleman continues. “The waves were designed to inset into the new concrete using a foam form. All waves were designed in my studio using the foam template before pouring the concrete. The stained-glass wave mosaics were taped together and transported for the installation right on site. As with any large installation, I had help in the studio and during installation. A huge thanks to Ippy Farnam, Nataley Person, Kristine Kollasch, Valley Rain, and AZ Art Solutions for all your services and support to see this artwork to fruition.”

Make sure to join us for the Pinball Wizard Dedication on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at 6 p.m. to celebrate this colorful artwork!

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