Downtown public art project receives 1st-place environmental-excellence award

(Courtney Pedroza/DD)
The Ground Cover Public Art Project was developed to provide the homeless with 300 handmade blankets, which were used to create a 116-by-50-foot art piece in a vacant lot downtown. (Courtney Pedroza/DD)

The Ground Cover Public Art Project, a community-oriented artistic effort to provide blankets for the homeless, has received a first place award in Arizona Forward’s 34th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards.

The project, which started in December 2013, won in the category of “Art in Public Places.” It was the work of local artist Ann Morton, who answered the city of Phoenix’s call for a public art project. Morton said she had been active in the community for years, doing various projects with or for homeless individuals.

She enlisted about 600 “blanketeers” — weavers, quilters, knitters, crocheters and textile artists — from the United States and Canada to produce 300 handmade blankets, which were assembled to create a 116-by-50-foot art piece in a vacant lot in downtown Phoenix.

“It gave me a great feeling to know that there were so many people interested,” Morton said.

The project garnered notice and support from many different organizations and individuals, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilman Michael Nowakowski, who both spoke at the project’s open viewing. Morton said she was pleased that public officials were paying attention to the issue of homelessness in the community.

“It wasn’t long after this that Stanton announced that every homeless veteran was in housing,” Morton said, suggesting the project had helped to raise public awareness about homelessness.

Arizona Forward is a business-based, membership-driven nonprofit that strives to bring people together to make the state more sustainable and livable. The organization, which used to be called Valley Forward, has recently expanded its sphere of influence to include the entire state.

The Ground Cover Public Art Project was submitted to Arizona Forward for award consideration by the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. Diane Brossart, CEO of Arizona Forward, said Arizona typically receives about 100 entries each year from a variety of individuals as well as public and private organizations.

Arizona Forward presents awards in seven broad-based categories, with a total of 20 subcategories. Don Henninger, principal of executive consulting company DH Advisors, headed a panel of jurists that included mixed-media artist and community activist Kate Timmerman. Since Timmerman’s specialty is art, she played a crucial role in selecting the Ground Cover Public Art Project to receive the Crescordia award for Art in Public Places.

Timmerman participated in a two-day collaborative in which jurists reviewed entries and chose the winners. She said the city of Phoenix’s submission for the Ground Cover Project included an emotionally powerful video presentation.

Timmerman said she felt that Arizona Forward’s annual Environmental Excellence Awards do a great job of recognizing groups and individuals for community efforts.

“I think they’ve … drawn attention to really important aspects about how were going to live in our state,” Timmerman said. “For me, it’s a way of encouraging and applauding people. We need that encouragement.”

Brossart said the city of Phoenix took home more awards than any other city this year. Through its annual Environmental Excellence Awards, which will go completely statewide next year, the organization aims to raise awareness about social issues and the people working to combat them.

“The goal (of the Environmental Excellence Awards) is to showcase what’s right about Arizona,” Brossart said. “So often we talk about what’s wrong, and we look at the negatives, and there’s a lot of really great, amazing projects that contribute to the environment and quality of life in the state that people don’t know about.”

Correction: October 2, 2014:

A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Kate Timmerman’s name. It has been updated to show the correct spelling.

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