Molding art for the masses

Public sculptures appear in many municipalities across metro Denver

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If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then taking a walk through most metro area communities can be a delightful treat for the eyes.

Many communities have outdoor sculptures placed either in sculpture gardens or throughout the cities to provide beauty, create community, revitalize metropolitan areas and make people think. For those in charge of acquiring the sculptures, it’s vital work.

“I think there’re a lot of reasons why public sculpture is important,” City of Northglenn Arts, Culture and Community Manager Michael Stricker said. “Not only does it help beautify parks and public areas, but it builds a sense of identity and community. Our community has really embraced all of the public art as their own.”

While public art also includes outdoor murals and other displays, sculptures come in all shapes and sizes, created out of every sort of material and in various genres from traditional to modern. And the best part is that viewing public sculptures is free.

“Outdoor sculptures are like a museum without walls in a way,” explained Tim Vacca with the Greenwood Village-based Museum of Outdoor Arts. “Our mission is to make art part of everyday life where people are walking in public areas, and it might bring a pleasant surprise to them. We want it to be accessible to all.”

Tricia Rosenthal, president of Sculpture Evergreen, a nonprofit that has placed 42 permanent sculptures throughout Evergreen, called it an artistic imperative to place sculptures in the downtown area and in area parks.

“They speak to people,” Rosenthal said. “It is fun for me to see that, and it’s pretty exciting. I’ve been to numerous places where many communities have decided this is something they want to do as part their community cultural enhancement, and people relate to the sculptures.  There is something for everyone — especially with the pieces that change.”

Some communities have sculptures that are displayed on a rotating basis along with their permanent collections.

For Golden, which has extensive public sculptures throughout the city, the Public Art Committee believes sculptures contribute to community identity, civic pride and economic development, and allows the community to feel engaged with the city, according to Robin Fleischmann, Golden’s economic development manager.

Sculptor Shohini Ghosh of Highlands Ranch agrees that public sculptures are a great and important way to introduce art into people’s lives. The sculptor, originally from India, has work displayed as close as Evergreen, Hudson Gardens and the Denver Art Museum, and as far away as Topeka, Kansas; Edina, Minnesota; and even China.

“Sculpture is a mode of expression,” she explained of her art. “The whole concept of expressing a whole idea in one form excites me. It’s not a canvas where you have a story visually developing. Sculpture is one idea, one moment, one emotion that you want to catch and make it permanent. Each sculpture has its own rapport with the public. That’s how it is supposed to be.”

 

Different styles

Public-sculpture selection and tastes vary wherever you go. In Evergreen, for example, a committee selects the sculptures that are part of the rotating Sculpture Walk. Since Evergreen is not incorporated, the nonprofit Sculpture Evergreen needs to look for sites by working with private property owners and other entities that own area parks. Evergreen’s Sculpture Walk was started 28 years ago.

“For us, it’s a grassroots thing,” she explained. “Other than money from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and Colorado Creative Industries, everything is funded by donors. Also, in many ways, Evergreen is unique because of the environment we have.”

The rural area makes selecting sites that enhance the sculptures more challenging, she added.

In Northglenn, a committee of 50 people selects six sculptures for its rotating Art on Parade and invites the public to vote for their favorite, which is purchased by the city to add to its permanent collection of about 30. Northglenn started its collection in 2000.

Stricker said Northglenn is committed to public art and putting it throughout the city, with Art on Parade located at Eleanor M. Wyatt Centennial Park to create a destination feel. The permanent collection is throughout the city and continues to grow.

Golden’s sculpture collection is on temporary hold as the Public Art Committee evaluates its current collection and determines what sculptures should be added. Many of the 34 sculptures are along Clear Creek and Washington Avenue. Golden also has what it calls the Itty Bitty Art Project, which includes 14 tiny sculptures.

The commission wants to begin diversifying its sculpture collection since a large number of the sculptures are traditional bronze donated to the city by other entities, Fleischmann said.

The Museum of Outdoor Arts' permanent sculpture garden is at Marjorie Park just outside Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in Greenwood Village, with 40 sculptures, plus more than 30 throughout Englewood. The Museum of Outdoor Arts was started in 1981.

 

Making sculpture relevant

Ghosh is excited that public sculptures have caught on in many cities in the United States and abroad in part to help rejuvenate municipalities. Historically, a sculpture was put in town squares to help identify the town, and public sculpture is continuing that mission, she added.

“I love that this art form is used as a tool to help cities as they go through the revival process of bringing a city back to life,” Ghosh said.

She wants to see sculptures generate discussion among those who see them.

“I’ve seen people stop and contemplate sculptures,” she explained. “Even in their hurried day, most people don’t just walk by. They give (the sculpture) a moment of thought. Art is a very strong form of communication other than writing or talking. (Sculptors) express directly from our souls — unadulterated, honest expression.”

For those who help bring public art to their communities, its importance is without measure.

“(Sculptures) really reach into people’s hearts,” Rosenthal said. “That’s something worth preserving.”

Sculpture Evergreen, Art on Parade

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