Filed Under Water

Maple-Ash Public Art

People usually think of homogenous suburbs when they think of Phoenix; however, the Maple-Ash neighborhood located just west of Mill Avenue is unique. Why? Flood irrigation.

Flood irrigation is the process through which water is delivered to a certain point to be distributed to properties. Tempe first began irrigating its agricultural land in the early 1900s by way of open ditches. Around 1930, pipes replaced open ditches as more homes were constructed.

Flood irrigation allows for lush lawns and much needed shade trees, providing a green sanctuary in the midst of a desert environment. While flood irrigation provides fantastic positive effects, it also causes the degradation of saline, alkali, and acidic levels in the soil.

The flood irrigation project became a financial issue in the 1950s; the city attempted to raise the irrigation fee that residents paid in exchange for the project. Many longtime residents rejected the idea of a raised fee. They argued that flood irrigation provided a beautification service to the properties’ landscape; therefore, the funding should come from the general fund rather than raising residents’ fees. Because of the negative resident resistance, subdivisions quit offering flood irrigation services and the city halted the expansion of the flood irrigation system.

In 2004, the residents of the Maple-Ash neighborhood transformed the unsightly irrigation standpipes into pieces of art that illuminate the presence of flood irrigation. Instead of letting these irrigation standpipes get covered in graffiti, the community association turned the standpipes into art that demonstrates the history of flood irrigation. They are even decorated with river rocks and handmade tiles from the residents. Each standpipe represents the point of distribution of water to properties, but you would never know that was their purpose.

Audio

Images

Flood Irrigation
Flood Irrigation Located at 13th and Ash, Our History of Flood Irrigation documents the history of flood irrigation in the community through photographs and personal reminiscences. The project was developed by artist Nina Solomon in collaboration with the City of Tempe. Source: Mark Tebeau Creator: Mark Tebeau Date: 2016
Through the Ages
Through the Ages A "beautified" irrigation standpipe that recounts the history of the neighborhood through pictures and details of the people who have lived in Maple Ash. Source: Paige Green Creator: Paige Green Date: 2014
Windows of Maple Ash
Windows of Maple Ash Artist Nina Solomon developed this unique covering for a canal standpipe, through which flood irrigation is provided to the neighborhood. Source: Paige Green Creator: Paige Green Date: 2014
Trees
Trees In 2005, residents of the Maple-Ash neighborhood began work with artists Nina Solomon and Chris Rowley and landscape architect Ruben Valenzuela to "beautify" the irrigation standpipes in the neighborhood. The project was funded by a a $12,000 grant from the Maple Ash Neighborhood Association. The project celebrates the history of the neighborhood and connects irrigation with the social life of the area. Source: City of Tempe

Location

Metadata

Paige Green and Cody Ferguson, “Maple-Ash Public Art,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/90.