Mesa Arts Center announced on July 28 the selection of internationally acclaimed artist Cecil Balmond to design its 21st Century Café Society shade sculpture project. This work will provide permanent shade over a community gathering place and connect the Mesa Art Center campus (1 E. Main St.) with Main Street in downtown Mesa. Jurors chose Balmond’s winning concept from a group of three finalists who were invited to submit designs.
“Balmond’s design for the shade sculpture, called ‘The Cloud,’ will create enhanced pedestrian interest, particularly given its location opposite a major new light-rail station and across the street from Mesa’s City Hall,” said Cindy Ornstein, executive director of Mesa Arts Center and director of arts and culture for the city of Mesa. “The gathering place and the pedestrian activity will support growth of public activity on the adjacent blocks, and extended visits to downtown Mesa by thousands of MAC patrons.”
The suspended cloudlike structure, designed to align with the existing MAC architecture and landscape, will have three main components when complete: tensile fabric, which matches the existing shade sails; columns with trapeziums, angled to create an inhabitable field; and glass oculi covered with dichroic film, the shadows of which change color with the movement of the sun. Nighttime lighting will make “The Cloud” a beacon welcoming visitors to the center after dark. It will also provide shade for a new outdoor seating area just north of MAC’s Theaters Building.
“The aim of the sculpture is to surprise and inspire, in addition to providing a cool place to take cover and for visitors to meet and collaborate,” said Balmond of his design. “I wanted to create an environment that changes your perception of space and is completely capable of being used for different purposes, in alignment with Mesa Arts Center’s needs.”
Balmond will collaborate with MAC’s original design architect to ensure the design is compatible with the site and with the original design intentions of MAC’s architecture.
Balmond will invite feedback and an exchange of ideas from the community during the design phase.
Balmond, who occupies multiple roles as artist, designer, architect, engineer, theoretician and writer, is principal of Balmond Studio, with offices in London, Hong Kong, and Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the Paul Philippe Cret Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. His light sculpture “Snow Words,” commissioned by the State of Alaska Arts Council, was named one of the best public artworks of 2013 by the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review.
Mesa Arts Center’s 21st Century Café Society project also includes the Alliance Pavilion Stage, completed last year, an interactive work of public art under development, and the north plaza renovation.