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ASU Art Museum becomes catalyst for sustainability dialog

June 24, 2009

Surprising. Invigorating. Thought provoking. The Arizona State University Art Museum continues to present the best in contemporary art with exhibitions in all media by regional and international, emerging and established artists. The ASU Art Museum organizes these outstanding contemporary art exhibitions – often receiving national and international attention – and presents them in innovative ways for students and visitors. 

The fall 2009 season, Defining Sustainability, is a series of dynamic and interactive projects that will come together at the ASU Art Museum and its Ceramics Research Center to illustrate sustainability ideas. Each exhibition or project tells a simple story – an artist’s proposal for green transportation or a designer’s solution for recycled shade structures – which together convey the complexity of sustaining life on earth. A nontraditional art museum project, artists and designers, faculty and students will engage the greater Phoenix community in their creative processes and in conversations about sustainability. The diverse projects range in materials and format, and are installed throughout the ASU Art Museum to tell stories of environmental, social and cultural sustainability.

In Defining Sustainability, art and the museum are catalyst and site for campus and community members to gather and further the conversation about sustainability. While many of the projects focus on this place, they have implications for art, museums and urban centers throughout the country and the world. Today’s art museum is a pristine, controlled environment, keeping the landscape, with all its environmental systems, hazards and problems, at bay. The ASU Art Museum strives to forge a new model for the university art museum as an interdisciplinary lab to explore real-world issues through the lens of the creative process.

To illustrate some ways in which the idea of sustainability affect us, three separate projects will physically alter our museum buildings, if only temporarily. Native Confluence: Sustaining Cultures brings together Native American artists led by noted artist Nora Naranjo Morse in a collaboration at the Ceramics Research Center that builds throughout the season. Morse and the other artist groups will use organic materials to create an installation that will extend beyond the walls of the building. In Political Ply, recycled political posters will be used to create shade structures on the museum’s west side sculpture courts. Canalscape for Metro Phoenix will create an environment in the museum’s entryway to view project ideas and information about the history of Phoenix’s canals and future prospects

This season also includes our Social Studies initiative at the ASU Art Museum. Social Studies opens the creative process by turning over a gallery to an artist who considers social interaction a crucial part of his or her art-making. Visitors are invited to participate with the artist in the gallery to create the objects and installations that form the exhibition, or to observe and question the process. Now on our fifth project, New York-based, Canadian artist Jillian McDonald visits the desert in fall 2009 with her project, Alone Together in the Dark. McDonald’s project is expected to explore different aspects of Arizona ghost towns, which are the remnants of both unsustainable cities and industries.

In addition to these projects, the museum also is featuring exhibitions in the galleries that highlight issues of sustainability in the desert and other environments through the use of prints, sound sculptures and other media. The season will be featured in national and international conferences including the U.S. GreenBuild conference, coming to Phoenix Nov. 10–14, 2009 and World Wide Views on Global Warming, in conjunction with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, which plans to hold one of its satellite community events in Phoenix. Dates are to be determined.

In addition to the Defining Sustainability projects and exhibitions, the ASU Art Museum continues to advance its Moving Targets initiative with the group video exhibition, I'm Keeping an Eye on You, which explores the broad and lasting effects of our curiosity and intrusions upon others. The exhibition features artists Mounira Al Solh (Amsterdam/Beirut); Rachel Garfield (London); Charlotte Ginsborg (London); Pia Greschner (Berlin); Myung-Soo Kim (Tempe); Yaron Lapid (London); Jeff Luckey (New York/Berlin); Johnna MacArthur (Los Angeles); Michael Mohan (Los Angeles); and Corinna Schnitt (Hamburg). The exhibition was curated by John Spiak, ASU Art Museum curator, initially as a single-channel installation for Aqua Art Miami, Dec. 2008.

Call Diane Wallace for interview opportunities with artists, collectors and curators featured this season.

2009–2010 ASU Art Museum Exhibitions and Events Schedule

Nowhere to Hide: Three Artists in the Desert
Julie Anand, Richard Lerman, Carrie Marill
Oct. 10, 2009-Feb. 20, 2010

Nowhere to Hide presents the work of three artists who live in Phoenix and have explored definitions of sustainability in their multi-media artworks. Their approaches range from photography to sound sculpture and gouache paintings.

Julie Anand’s Material Histories are based on her walks around the Valley; as she moves through the city’s neighborhoods she collects lost and discarded items along the way. Her brilliantly-hued photographs present the found objects like specimens and begin to tell stories of the people who have traveled along the same path – their habits and preoccupations.

Richard Lerman is a well-known sound artist who creates speakers and instruments from tumbleweeds and cactus, cereal boxes and rejection letters. His work often explores the inevitable trade-offs in our interaction with the land, and how even green systems and solutions impact our environment. 

Visual Aides, by Carrie Marill, is a series of gouache paintings that represent environmental problems and solutions brought on and devised by humans. The series was inspired by candy-colored classroom posters from the 1940s, found by the artist at a flea market in France  that depict different domestic, agricultural, industrial and maritime landscapes. She reprints the images on watercolor paper and updates them with current events and objects, like recycling bins in a bucolic farmyard and a cargo ship with a parasail in the busy harbor scene. 

Marill, like all of the artists in the exhibition, grapples with issues of personal responsibility and control; sustainable systems that inevitably require compromise and the complex, global challenges of humans living on earth.
Defining Sustainability: From the ASU Art Museum Collection
Exhibition and Community Seminar
Sept. 19, 2009-Jan. 30, 2010

Students from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the School of Sustainability will work with Dr. Claudia Mesch, art history, and Julie Anand, photography, from the School of Art, to explore art and sustainability issues raised by artworks in the ASU Art Museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition will include both past and present examples of artists exploring human interaction with the land, urbanization, natural and manmade materials, pollution, cultural sustainability and sustainable processes, and will explore how artists have brought issues of sustainability to a broader community, encouraged participation and dialog, and proposed creative solutions.

The exhibition, curated by Mesch and Heather Lineberry, senior curator and interim director of the ASU Art Museum, will include historic precedents, like the 19th century Hudson River school painters who painted classic American landscapes with encroaching signs of industrialization, as well as selections of work by contemporary artists like Matthew Moore, who has created compelling land art works on his family’s farm in the middle of the suburbs in West Phoenix, and Eddie Dominguez, who uses ceramics to explore human history and impact on the earth.

The students in the seminar will bring their different disciplines to their discussions and research. As the conversation deepens, the projects that emerge from the class will be accessible to the public in the gallery on a class bulletin board and on the website including a class blog.  Class sessions with guest speakers from the fields of art, science and the humanities will be open to the public. The students in the seminar will also interact with the artists in residence during the larger fall season.

Urban Design Projects:

Canalscape for Metro Phoenix
Installation and Exhibition in the museum’s Nymphaeum
Nov. 7-Dec. 1, 2009

Nov. 10: Exhibition reception with Night Moves: School of Dance faculty and student performance

Amsterdam has 47 miles of canals. Venice has 125. And Phoenix has 181!  Amsterdam and Venice are widely known and lauded for their stunning canal-oriented cityscapes, while Phoenix has largely turned its back on this tremendous asset. We use the canal banks for recreation and have been engaged in canal bank enhancements – public art, benches, landscaping and shade structures – but we have failed to leverage the opportunity to create special places alongside the canal banks that combine live, work and play areas.

Canalscape proposes the creation of vital urban hubs where canals meet major streets. This mixed-use "urban infill" would provide highly desirable places to gather by the water, as well as an alternative to sprawl. Unlike Amsterdam and Venice, much smaller cities with urbanized canals throughout, Phoenix’s trademark would be distributed canalscape, reflecting its unique quality of being a “network” city as well as a region that creatively intersperses urban living into a breathtaking desert landscape. Canalscape would contribute to a sustainable and authentic desert urbanism for metro Phoenix.

Nan Ellin is an associate professor in the ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. She and her students will create a canalscape in the museum’s entryway and Nymphaeum. Water features and plants will create an environment to view project ideas and information about the history of Phoenix’s canals and prospects for the future.

For more information visit:
ASU Office of the President Podcast on Canalscape
ASU Canalscape Web site
AIA Canalscape Competition (PDF download)
Political Ply:  Recycled Evaporative Cooling Shade Structures
Oct.-Dec. 2009

Jason Griffiths is an assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. He and design students create innovative shade structures for the ASU Art Museum’s sculpture courts. Using recycled materials, specifically old political posters, they have built a gridded structure that will provide shade, respond to the existing architecture and inject color and whimsy into the environment. On the western side of the building, the courts currently are inhospitable for visitors or art due to the ferocity of our climate, the building materials and lack of shade; even in the winter, the sunlight can be uncomfortable for prolonged visits. The new structures promise to positively impact the visitor’s experience in the space in manifold ways. Social and educational events will take place in the court during this time frame to test the new environment created by the structures.

Social Studies:

Jillian McDonald: Alone Together in the Dark – Social Studies Project 5
Artist in residence in the gallery: Oct. 5-Nov. 14, 2009
Exhibition: Oct. 5, 2009-Jan. 9, 2010

Social Studies challenges the traditional exhibition format by opening with an empty gallery and an artist in residence who considers social interaction a crucial part of their art-making. Visitors are invited into the gallery to participate with the artist to create objects and installations, or to observe and question the process. Working through public/private partnerships with multiple ASU departments, schools and community organizations, the project brings museum visitors into the art-making process, invites extensive collaboration with community and university students, and greatly enhances the museum’s role as a vital gathering place.

In our fifth Social Studies project, New York-based, Canadian artist Jillian McDonald will explore sustainability in the museum while including grassroots, community conversations.

“At this point, my thoughts for the Tempe project circulate around haunted sites, ghosts and abandoned houses, focusing on ideas around sustainable living, ghost towns and The Day of the Dead,” McDonald says. “I will be visiting Arizona in June to get acquainted with the landscape and local customs, and to further develop site-specific ideas.”

Usually, a work of art is created in the solitude of an artist’s studio, shipped to an exhibition space and installed by museum staff; this project will allow museum visitors direct access to a contemporary artist and her creative process. Research, discussion and art-making are the subject matter of Social Studies rather than a behind-the-scenes activity.

The project will culminate in an installation, led by the artist, which will remain at the museum beyond the six-week residency. There are few artists in Phoenix who work in this method, and as the city continues to mature, projects like Social Studies will play an important role in presenting new ways to make, think about and participate in art.

Sustainability in Clay – ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center:

Native Confluence: Sustaining Cultures
Aug. 29-Nov. 28, 2009

For centuries, native peoples have practiced sustainable living, having a cultural and spiritual connection to the environment and a deep respect for the balance of natural and rhythmic cycles of plant, animal and human life, which always has been nurtured and guarded. In Native Confluence, three Native American artists (or groups of artists) from Arizona and New Mexico each will spend one week per month in residence.

Prior to opening, all of the artists together will conceptualize a theme or project direction, which then will be continually developing throughout their residencies at the museum, inspired through the lens of the collective. The first artist in residence will start the project knowing that later artists will add or subtract to the piece over a period of time. In the end, there will be a true collaborative installation that has been inspired by material, cultural and personal creativity.

The project will include an installation-in-progress within the Ceramics Research Center gallery, as well as seep outside onto the building’s exterior walls. It is anticipated that materials to be used will include clay, adobe, dirt, stone, branches and other organic materials.

Native Confluence speaks to a native worldview in terms of inter-generational methods of practicing sustainability. It's this approach to organic materials – tools from ancestral traditions – that allow new doors to open. This idea is holistic in its approach; the idea of sustainability is consciousness about the whole – whole community, world and self.

Participating artists:
Nora Naranjo Morse, Espanola, N.M.
Athena & Bill Steen, Canelo Project, Elgin, Ariz.
Additional artists TBA

Tentative residency schedule:
Aug. 24–29: First artist residency – exhibition project opens to the public Aug. 29
Sept. 21–25: Second residency – Nora Naranjo Morse, will return for opening reception Oct. 9
Nov. 9–14: Third residency – Athena & Bill Steen, in conjunction with the Green build conference (ASU Art Museum tours on Friday and Saturday)         

Moving Targets:

I’m Keeping An Eye On You
Sept. 19-Dec. 12, 2009

The Moving Targets initiative builds on the museum's long history of exploring the role of new media in the arts. The museum presented its first media exhibition in 1993, Nam June Paik: Time for Change and represented the U.S. at the 1995 Venice Biennale, Italy art exhibition with the work of five installations by Bill Viola. The ASU Art Museum supports emerging artists and critically acclaimed practitioners of new genres through solo exhibitions, including William Kentridge, Shirin Neshat, Jim Campbell, Pipilotti Rist, Gary Hill and Francesco Torres. In 1997, the museum developed an annual short film and video festival, which continues to present the work of international artists. As technology penetrates all aspects of art, the museum strives to present the most innovative and engaging works.

Through personal, established relationships, casual encounters, forced institutional interactions, or contact from a safe distance, we often overstep our boundaries. Whether we are conscious or not of our boundary breaking, we all are guilty at one time or another, of intruding into other people's lives and space. What may pass as uneventful for one individual may be the cause of great anxiety and fear for another. I’m Keeping an Eye on You explores the broad and lasting effects of our curiosity and intrusions upon others.

Artists featured in I’m Keeping an Eye on You include: Mounira Al Solh (Amsterdam/Beirut); Rachel Garfield (London); Charlotte Ginsborg (London); Pia Greschner (Berlin); Myung-Soo Kim (Tempe); Yaron Lapid (London); Jeff Luckey (New York/Berlin); Johnna MacArthur (Los Angeles); Michael Mohan (Los Angeles); and Corinna Schnitt (Hamburg).

Organized by John Spiak, ASU Art Museum curator, I’m Keeping an Eye on You premiered as a Video Project Space at Aqua Art Miami in December 2008. This project is made possible by the generosity of Aqua Art Miami and Friends of the Arizona State University Art Museum.
As part of the Moving Targets series, the ASU Art Museum Short Film and Video Festival is held each April. Look for its 14th annual screening during April 2010.



Defining Sustainability at the ASU Art Museum was co-organized by School of Sustainability, Global Institute of Sustainability, ASU; School of Art and School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, ASU; School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and American Indian Studies Program, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, ASU; ASU Institute for Humanities Research; and EDAW/AECOM.

Projects and exhibitions supported by Helme Prinzen Endowment, Evelyn Smith Family Exhibition Fund, The FUNd at the ASU Art Museum, ASU Art Museum Advisory Board, Joseph Dung Ceramics Initiative, The family of Jan Fisher, EDAW/AECOM, Arizona Humanities Council, Pyramid Developers, O Premium Waters and Whole Foods.


Educational programs sponsored by the Jean Stange Memorial Fund and the Red & Alva Foundation.


Season Partners: 
•  Heather Lineberry, ASU Art Museum
•  Peter Held, ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center
•  John Spiak, ASU Art Museum
•  Andrea Feller, ASU Art Museum
•  ASU Art Museum curators
•  Barry Sparkman, ASU Global Institute of Sustainability/School of Sustainability
•  Braden Kay, ASU Global Institute of Sustainability/School of Sustainability
•  Julie Anand, ASU School of Art
•  Claudia Mesch, ASU School of Art
•  Gregory Sale, ASU School of Art
•  Angela Ellsworth, ASU School of Art
•  Nan Ellin, ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Planning, Planning Program Director
•  Jason Griffiths, ASU School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
•  Joe Baker, ASU Herberger Institute director for Community Engagement
•  ASU Native American Studies Program
•  ASU School of Art inter-media and other art students
•  ASU Institute for Humanities Research
•  U.S. Greenbuild Conference
•  Valley elementary, middle and high schools
•  Local and national artists


ASU Art Museum Friday Conversations@11 series

A series of discussions to further the conversation about our exhibitions and events are held Fridays at 11 a.m. in the museum. The fall season event schedule is subject to change. For the most updated event information, please visit:

  • Aug. 28: Native Confluence: Sustaining Cultures, with Peter Held and the artists of Postcommodity
  • Sept. 4: Defining Sustainability, with Arnim Wiek, assistant professor, ASU School of Sustainability
  • Sept. 11: Green Living, with Greg Peterson, Urban Farm, Phoenix
  • Sept. 18: I’m Keeping an Eye on You, with John Spiak
  • Sept. 25: Defining Sustainability: From the ASU Art Museum Collection, with Heather Lineberry, Claudia Mesch and others
  • Oct. 2: Defining Sustainability: Sustainable Interiors, with Deborah Schneiderman
  • Oct. 9: Alone Together in the Dark, with Jillian McDonald and John Spiak, The Start
  • Oct. 16: Nowhere to Hide: Three Artists in the Desert, with artist Julie Anand
  • Oct. 23: Nowhere to Hide: Three Artists in the Desert, with artist Carrie Marill
  • Oct. 30: Political Ply, with Jason Griffins
  • Nov. 6: Nowhere to Hide: Three Artists in the Desert, with Richard Lerman, artist and professor, ASU New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
  • Nov. 13: Alone Together in the Dark, with Jillian McDonald and John Spiak, The End
  • Nov. 20: Canalscape for Metro Phoenix, with Braden Kay, graduate student, ASU School of Sustainability


Jan Fisher Memorial Lecture Series
Oct. 22: artist Kathy Butterly

Kathy Butterly's quirky, small-sized sculptures and exquisitely colored glazes merge human and vegetal forms into organic ceramic shapes. The artist creates in response to her surroundings and topical issues. She describes her newer work as starting to feel like figure/landscapes involving outside elements.

"Maybe I would call these ‘harmonious-parasitic-invaders,” Butterly says. Labor intensive, Butterly often fires her work up to 20-30 times to achieve jewel-like effects.

Butterly’s work is represented in numerous national and international collections and is sought after by collectors worldwide. While at ASU, Butterly also will meet with ceramics graduate students to offer critiques.

ASU Art Museum exhibitions on the road:

April 24-Sept. 6, 2009
Intertwined: Contemporary Baskets from the Sara and David Lieberman Collection
Museum of Fine Arts
Santa Fe, N.M.

June 26-Sept. 13, 2009
Eden Revisited: The Ceramic Art of Kurt Weiser
Erie Art Museum
Erie, Pa.

Nov. 13, 2009 – Jan. 10, 2010
Innovation & Change
Vero Beach Museum of Art
Vero Beach, Fla.

The ASU Art Museum, named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America, is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. The museum is located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street in Tempe and admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesdays (during the academic year), 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday and closed on Sundays and Mondays. We offer additional educator hours by appointment, Monday and before 11 a.m., Tuesdays-Thursdays. To learn more about the museum, call 480.965.2787 or visit