LOVE by Robert Indiana
Dr. Gerd Wuestemann shares the details on Scottsdale Arts design and renovations in our latest ICONIC Hour podcast.
In March 2018, Dr. Gerd Wuestemann came to Scottsdale Arts to begin his tenure as President and CEO, and with him, he brought great aspirations of innovation, growth, and financial and cultural turnaround.
“When I started this job, I met with a couple of people whom I’ve been involved with for a really long time and they said ‘You know, art and culture are part of Scottsdale’s DNA’, and that’s always resonated with me,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “ I felt this was our moment…we’ve branded Scottsdale as a luxurious destination, what better time than now to build these new arts facilities and build out this campus?”
Dr. Gerd Wuestemann, photo by Scott Foust Studios for Frontdoors Media
In 2019, Dr. Westemann worked closely with the city of Scottsdale to include multiple, large-scale cultural improvement projects in a bond initiative. Known for his entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, this certainly wasn’t Dr. Wuestemann’s first rodeo. For the previous decade, he held the position of Executive Director at Acadiana Center for the Arts in Louisiana, where he led the construction of a $25 million, 60,000-square-foot arts center, ultimately transforming its identity as it grew into a multidisciplinary, regional cultural hub.
And he’s out to do it again.
A full renovation of Scottsdale Civic Center, including the construction of two magnificent outdoor performance venues is already underway to modernize and create outdoor spaces.
“We already have these beautiful facilities with the performing arts, but I knew there was an opportunity to extend ourselves much more to the community,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “I’m really excited about this, and it looks like we’re on track to have this ready in time for the Super Bowl.”
Rendering courtesy of Scottsdale Arts
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Currently under construction with plans to be completed next year are the outdoor venues, with two large-scale outdoor stages. One is the main stage, which will be able to hold 2,000 to 3,000 people. There’s also a 360 stage, which allows for performances in all four directions in a crowd of up to 100,000 to 200,000 people, which will mostly be lawn seating to accommodate a variety of concerts for families and more.
“But I should tell you this: There is much more in motion right now than just the civic center renovations,” Dr. Wuestemann says.
Starting next year in April, Dr. Wuestemann is looking to work with the city on street scaping Second Street, the art center’s south entrance, in order to make the Scottsdale Arts campus much more discoverable, as Dr. Westemann explained.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
There are also plans to implement a gateway structure into the front for a large-scale marquis and a large-scale canopy outside. In addition to that, Dr. Wuestemann has plans to renovate the small theater—which hasn’t had a design update since possibly the ‘70s. He plans to modernize the inside of the theater and reconfigure it to work for multiple events, whether it be business conventions, theater performances, podcasts or chess night.
“It’ll give us a whole new platform as the theater business goes,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “And then after that, we get the real ambitious stuff done. Our goal is this notion that Scottsdale should build and have the finest arts campus in the Southwest, and that’s exactly what we’re about to create.”
While Scottsdale Arts will see new venues as soon as next year, many of these ambitions are set over a long period of time, in order to ensure the art campus does not simply just grow, but it remains financially and culturally sustainable.
Knight Rise by James Turrell, photo by Sean Deckert
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“I phased this all out because every time you grow, you can’t just build buildings, you have to learn how to handle capacity, operate them and find a way to fund them for the long-term,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “Right now, for these first three phases in building, we have all that laid out. Beyond that, we will build a proper Arts Education Center here on this campus as well.”
One of Dr. Wuestemann’s largest priorities in his endeavors is to ensure that the art campus offers something for everyone.
“I did not grow up in an arts family, I grew up in a real, blue-collar, working-class family,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “What changed my life was I got a guitar in my hand when I was five years old, and it just changed everything for me. I believe in the transformative power of the arts.
Because of that notion, we are very passionate about doing a lot of free events outside for families. Doing a lot of things that bring the next generation along with us, having free museum days, offering veteran’s tickets for those who served our country and so forth. We will really focus on that level of community engagement.”
Learning Innovation Canal Convergence workshop, photo by Chris Loomis
“I did not grow up in an arts family, I grew up in a real, blue-collar, working-class family,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “What changed my life was I got a guitar in my hand when I was five years old, and it just changed everything for me. I believe in the transformative power of the arts. Because of that notion, we are very passionate about doing a lot of free events outside for families. Doing a lot of things that bring the next generation along with us, having free museum days, offering veteran’s tickets for those who served our country and so forth. We will really focus on that level of community engagement.”
One thing Dr. Wuestemann wants you to remember is that you can help in making Scottsdale’s Art Center the finest in the Southwest by volunteering.
“We love volunteers. We couldn’t possibly make it without our 1,000-plus volunteers we get every year,” Dr. Wuestemann says. “There are lots of volunteer opportunities with us. Reach out to us and think about maybe volunteering for one of our events, but we’d certainly love to see you join as a patron in a show.”
Keep your eyes peeled for the grand reopening of the Scottsdale Civic Center early next year. We’ll keep you posted.