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Best Public Art

READERS' PICK: So many public art projects busted out all over this year, we don't blame our readers for not being able to pick just one--though some of our collective favorites are along our up-and-coming river parks. Tucson's own Barbara Grygutis, a nationally known public art sculptor until now shamefully neglected in her hometown, had what one insider calls "her year." She blessed the Santa Cruz River Park with four seating plazas, each graced by images of a river-loving desert tree, replicated in her trademark tile. She brought art to the cops and firefighters at the Public Safety Training Academy with "Tools for Life," on South Wilmot, bronze-and-tile sculptures that enshrine such tools of public safety as boots, ladders and helmets. Grygutis also got a commission at the Tucson Airport, and so did the similarly productive Edwards Tanz Collective, which did those trailing ramp dividers that feature clouds and sky. Paul Edwards and Chris Tanz are also the authors of "Sand Trout," the whimsical rainbow-colored fish leaping out of the Rose Hill Wash at Tanque Verde Road. It's nice to see a piece of tongue-in-cheek desert folklore memorialized on that unseemly commercial strip. And this Saturday, Eric Cooper will unveil another piece of wash art. He's done the metalwork railings for the brand-new pedestrian/bicycle bridge that crosses the Rillito at Mountain. Cooper incorporated that neighborhood's history by re-creating the horseshoes that once were found in its barns, the pliers once found in its light-industrial workshops. Chris Rush also drew on history for his big mural of Mayan ballplayers and contemporary women basketballers at the new El Pueblo Neighborhood Center. So did Martín Hernandez in his sculptural columns at the center: He recapitulates a chronology of the Southside in terra cotta, and pictures the desert flora and fauna in bas relief.

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