Putting the “Art” in the “Public”

Margaret Bruning

Yesterday afternoon marked the official sendoff for Margaret Bruning, Associate Director of Scottsdale Public Art. Like many happy/sad occasions, this one provides opportunity to embrace new perspectives.

After all, that’s what art is about.


By observing and participating in art, you gain perspective. Often, art helps you see things you may never have been able to see for yourself.

And even for those things you can see for yourself, art can help see those things through someone else’s eyes…possibly to a new perspective. Often, their interpretation can help you gain some insight into the way they think and observe the world.

Many forms of art in various venues provide us this opportunity to gain perspective. Each are unique.

What’s unique about “Public” Art is that there is no admission price. You don’t have to go inside a building to partake. You can be a consumer of Public Art just by walking by it. You can be an accidental patron of Public Art. It requires no intent. Even if you don’t notice Public Art, it becomes part of the context of your environment.

Love Sculpture | PBase.com

Public Art also belongs to everyone. Our residents ‘own’ public art. Our winter visitors possess it when they are here. Tourists claim it when they stop to admire it and have their photos taken next to it. Kids can touch it. Sir Isaac Newton would remind us that when they do so, it touches them back. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

With Public Art, everyone can be an art critic. You can like it or not. Either way you can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger about it and debate the merits.

"One with the Eagle" | AZCentral.com

Margaret Bruning has been a big part of those conversations in Scottsdale for a long time.

One with the Eagle

My first contact with Margaret involved the re-installation of the too-long-stored “One with the Eagle” sculpture by Pat Mathiesen at the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Thunderbird. To many it is the symbol of the Scottsdale Airport.

In the months since and in a few far-too-brief conversations, I’ve gained some perspective into Margaret and her passion: Bringing art to the residents of and visitors to Scottsdale. She and Scottsdale Public Art Director Valerie Vadala-Homer have created a Public Art program that is the envy of cities around the world.

Yesterday, I gained additional perspective on both of them by attending Margaret’s going away party hosted by SMoCA Director Tim Rodgers at the soon-to-be-opened SMoCA Lounge. You can tell a lot about a person by their friends…and Margaret has some amazing friends. Among them are a  former state senator, former mayor of Scottsdale, current and former city council members, and a who’s who of the arts community in the metro area.

Several attendees took turns at the microphone to express their gratitude and pride toward Margaret. I’ll leave it to Scottsdale’s Poet Laureate, Bob Frost, to artistically express those feelings:

 Were you there when she said, “hello”?
Colors changed
Did you hear her words?
Emotions moved
Did you see her dark eyes?
Light engaged
Did you see inside her hand?
Dreams emerged

 In her wake
Wood, stone, glass paint and light and ideas
Were welded together
They were placed where they belonged
Here, there, now, then
Guided by heart and thought
Ideas floated like a song on water
Some with, some against, all new
And we knew

 Easy smile, soft eyes, sharp mind, focused.
She couldn’t be held
She leaves footprints in her shadow
And in our hearts
You knew she loved you.
And your tears are honest
Were you there when she said, “good-bye”?

I’m a better person to have had the pleasure of interacting with Margaret during her time in Scottsdale. Los Angeles County’s gain is our loss, but also a great testament to Margaret, to Valerie, to the SPA Advisory Board, and to Scottsdale Public Art.

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