“The desert is defined by the blazing sun and the need to find shelter from it. The arts center (ASU Art Museum) acknowledges this duality by linking earth and sky. The main entrance descends into the earth in search of coolness and psychological distance from the fierce sun above.” –Antoine Predock, ASU Art Museum Building architect, 1989
In today’s day and age, art museum lobbies tend to look the same, promoting a kind of high-class taste. They often rely on designs that use modern furniture; cold, hard floors; classical music; and other signals (like Italian coffees in their cafes and expensive gift items in their shops) that are familiar to some populations and alienating to others. As a museum that strives to be inclusive and to acknowledge people from all walks of life, ASU Art Museum commissioned ARENA (the artist duo Mario Gallego and Jorge Ignacio Torres) to reimagine the visitor experience. This artistic intervention, titled “Embrace,” focuses on themes of welcome, placemaking and placekeeping, and the activation of the five senses. ARENA (the Spanish word that translates to sand) was directly influenced by the landscape of the Sonoran desert and the building architect’s use of space and light.
About the artists:
Jorge Ignacio Torres works at the intersection of art, design and culture. His interdisciplinary practice focuses on how our experiences, both everyday and ritualized, can speak to contemporary society and how it is perceived. He is the founder of Palabra in Phoenix, a space that houses and cultivates art, music and culinary arts.
Mario Gallego is a creative brand strategist with an emphasis on design and art. He bridges various cultures through curated experiences as a multifaceted creative strategist, and he authentically connects community to art and design.
Image credit: Unknown photographer, “View of Tempe-Looking Southeast from Tempe Butte,” c. 1900. Borrowed from the Tempe Historical Museum (Donor: Hayden Family. Catalog number: 1987.1.210).