Wondering what that is as you drive under the Scottsdale Civic Center?

It's the newest piece of public artwork to join the Scottsdale Public Art Permanent Collection.

The installed work, called "Breakaway," is a cast aluminum sculpture depicting a rope with various knots by Tuscon artist Barbara Grygutis. It is meant to liven up the area under Scottsdale Civic Center and can be seen in the Drinkwater Boulevard underpass, between Second Street and First Avenue.

“We've always talked about ‘Breakaway’ as an entryway to the arts district and the city,” says Tanya Galin, public art manager for Scottsdale Public Art, a department of the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts. “‘Breakaway’ has a contemporary feel, yet it harkens back to Scottsdale’s slogan as ‘The West's Most Western Town.’ There’s a bit of the old and the new, past and the present.” 

Grygutis drew inspiration from everyday objects and how they reflect our lives. Rope is a common object with many uses and meanings to many people. Rope is not one thing, and Grygutis thinks that public art should be the same. 

“The beauty of public art is that everybody who looks at it sees something different, and I liked that,” said Grygutis. “Sometimes people give me interpretations of my work that I didn't even think about. They saw something different. That's a beautiful thing.” 


The artwork, which took for years from initial thought to installation, includes two 300-foot lengths on both sides of the underpass, totaling 600 feet of rope connecting Scottsdale's past and present. It was molded and cast in aluminum sculpture by art foundry and fabricator Bollinger Atelier, which is located in Tempe. Skilled artisans completed the assembly, cleaning, and finishing by hand.

“We felt there was such a missed opportunity, with hundreds of cars passing through each day without realizing the amazing arts campus they were crossing,” says Dr. Gerd Wuestermann, president and CEO of Scottsdale Arts. “We envisioned this concept of a significant public art piece becoming a marquee for the emerging Scottsdale Civic Center campus.” 

The concept of the work was meant to connect the idea of the Old West with the future.

“How do you bridge Scottsdale tradition with a futuristic view? You animate it,” said Grygutis. “There's this concept of the Old West, but there's also the concept of the future. All those things go together; you can respect your tradition, but you have to look to the future.” 

The artist will be on hand during a dedication of the work at 10 a.m. on Fri., May 3. Those interested in attending should meet on the lower level of the Scottsdale Civic Center Library parking lot.