Denver’s got a lot of public art. And while a lot of the art you see around the city was commissioned by businesses and private individuals, a big part of what makes Denver’s public spaces so vibrant and colorful is a rule specific to Denver.
Under the Denver Public Art Program established in 1988, one percent of any city capital improvement project over $1 million must be set aside for the creation of new public art works. The program has turned out hundreds of site-specific works including “Blucifer” and “The Big Blue Bear”, each of which was commissioned by a panel of community members, arts professionals and city reps.
The city currently has dozens of upcoming public art projects in the works. Here are the ones that have appeared around Denver in the first half of 2021.
What: Resonance, an interactive LED light art piece by New York artist Brian Brush
Where: Buell Theater Façade in the Central Business District
About: Audience members entering or leaving a performance at the Buell will notice this 150-foot-wide, luminous wall piece resembling a sound wave. Visitors can speak into a microphone on an adjacent balcony to change the piece’s light, sound, motion and speed. It’s best viewed at night.
Where: Green Valley Ranch Town Center Park
About: This touch-based piece is designed to inspire collaborative play. The sculpture resembles a giant, west-pointing compass resting on four steel columns. Visitors can move the needle’s direction by interacting with four pads attached to the columns. Once visitors leave, the needle will reset back to west.
What: A Life Cycle Story, a sculpture by Maureen Hearty made up of steel panels resembling an ornate room divider or a foldout book
Where: The south side of Denver’s Smiley Branch Library
About: The cutout illustrations on the panels that make up this piece tell the story of a dandelion’s life cycle. The six panels are joined by aluminum pipes which offer an interactive sound component Visitors can stop at the library’s front desk to borrow a mallet, which they’ll use to tap on the pipes and create sound. While at the desk, visitors can also check out Dandelion Love, a short illustrated book Hearty designed to accompany the piece.
What: Que Viva Paco, a painted stainless steel sculpture created by local artist Carlos Frésquez
Where: 1290 Knox Court, Paco Sanchez Park in the Villa Park neighborhood
About: The piece, three stacked five-foot disks resembling records painted with the colors of the U.S. and Mexican flags, is a tribute to Francisco “Paco” Sanchez, who founded Denver’s first Spanish language radio station in 1954. The disks represent the Latin and Mexican music the DJ used to spin on the air.
What: Time is a Friend of the Future, Not an Enemy of the Past, a mixed-media clock and art piece by local artist Valerie Savarie
Where: Above a fireplace mantel at Byers Branch Library in La Alma/Lincoln Park
About: For this piece, Savarie recycled a vintage encyclopedia set, and cut silhouette profiles into the cover of each book. The profiles depict volunteer community members of a range of racial, gender and age backgrounds and included both library staff and Santa Fe Art District residents. Once the silhouettes were cut, Savarie filled each one with a collage made up of exposed pages and other materials. Each completed portrait became a number on the clock, which actually tells the time. The piece engages with the notion that libraries are keepers of time, history, stories and memory.