For the past 10 years, the Downtown Partnership has placed large-scale public art downtown completely free. Well, free to you and me and the city, that is.
Using corporate sponsorship and private funding, the Partnership's annual Art on the Streets creates a sort of open-air museum on sidewalks, in parks and on medians throughout downtown.
To celebrate the effort's 10th anniversary, the Partnership sent out a call to artists across the country to submit works aligning with the old city slogan, "City of Sunshine." It awarded cash prizes totaling $30,000 for the top three entries, and also commissioned a site-specific, permanent piece.
The final works were installed last week, some just hours before the opening celebration.
"The whole idea is to create conversation and to get people to start looking around them and [notice] that there's more than just ... a wastebasket and a bench," says program coordinator Denise Schall, who oversaw the project from inception to completion.
Many of the contributing artists live and work in Colorado, including the Springs' own Nicholas Ordahl, who won first place. Ordahl's "Day Break" is a modified park bench with a hood of solar panels that collect sunlight and illuminate the flowers curling around the structure. Ordahl used recycled steel scraps and items such as car windshields for the body of the work, yet cites the organic world of plants and their need for sunlight as inspiration.
Montana artist Patrick Zentz built the commissioned, permanent work, "38, 104 Helios" (the cosmic address for the sun, we're told), which stands on the corner of Kiowa Street and Cascade Avenue.
Zentz felt "impressed by the way the prairie joins the mountains ... and the nexus of the northern plains and the southern desert" that meet in the Springs. The piece's X shape echoes the meeting of the four directions. On top, the artist installed an anemometer (wind-catching cups that spin a large wheel) that tilts on a horizon to match the declination of the rising and setting sun.
Adam Lerner, executive director of the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar in Lakewood, juried the show.
"I was looking for a contemporary vocabulary," he says of the 13 works he chose from roughly 50 submissions.
Ordahl's work particularly struck Lerner for his attention to detail and originality: "[He has] a very original vision or ... signature that's a little bit whimsical, and it's a little bit techie and sci-fi," Lerner says.
Lerner earned his Ph.D. based on his studies of the ultimate piece of public art, Mount Rushmore. He feels that in virtually any form, public art is a sign of a healthy city.
"It's very important to look at art," he says, "as part of an overall ecology of urban living."
Art on the Streets
Downtown, various locations
Through July 2009, free
For more, visit downtowncs.com.