The popular Art on the Streets exhibit is on trend.
Downtown Ventures’ blocks-long downtown sculpture garden this year will add murals to the usual innovative array of outdoor pieces. Altogether, a dozen new works by 13 artists will be up and ready for ogling by Tuesday, including six murals.
June’s First Friday Downtown will feature a public launch of the exhibit and a scavenger hunt.
Adding murals to the mix was a way to keep up with the region’s flourishing mural scene and honor the intrepid spirit of the contemporary art exhibit started by Judy Noyes and Mary Jean Larson in 1998.
“We didn’t have contemporary public art,” said Claire Swinford, urban engagement manager for Downtown Colorado Springs. “Everything they put out was exciting. We hired qualified jurors every year, and (Art on the Streets) made its mark on the city. We’re known for having really great public art.”
To help amass mural proposals, AOTS turned to Gregg Deal, a nationally known Fountain-based artist, activist and member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe. He’s worked with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and with the Denver Art Museum, among others, and recently finished a mural in Telluride and completed a piece last year in Boulder at the University of Colorado’s Visual Arts Complex courtyard.
“That he lives here and thus far has not made his mark on our walls, we thought, ‘Let’s change that,’” Swinford said. “As an artist working in the field, he has a bunch of contacts around the world and nation, and we were able to bring some of his contacts and his context to jurying this year. The result is one of the most diverse and inclusive exhibits we’ve ever had.”
Artists from around the world submitted 112 proposals in this year’s call for entries. Five Colorado artists were selected, along with seven from elsewhere in the U.S. and one from Brazil. Stipends for winners increased this year to $2,000.
Entries were judged by jurors Joy Armstrong, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College; Ashley Clemmer, director of programs and community engagement at Rothko Chapel in Houston; and Deal.
As always, all AOTS works are available for purchase, including the murals, which is essentially a long-term maintenance agreement. The price covers refreshing the paint, repair (if it’s a vinyl treatment) and other costs of upkeep.
Two encore works from last year’s AOTS exhibit will stick around: “Iscariot,” the giant mermaid octopus by Trace O’Connor that lives on top of the building at 234 W. Colorado Ave., will stay for the next two years. And “You, Light as a Cloud,” the stainless-steel wire cat by Byeong Doo Moon, will stay for a year. The latter will be moved indoors due to repeated vandalism. Its new location has yet to be chosen.
Through the Judy Noyes Memorial Purchase Fund, established in 2014 to buy permanent works of art, Downtown Ventures acquired the cast bronze “Musical Churn” by Nikki Pike and Thomas Dodds, listed at $12,500. The interactive musical churn plays music by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and will be installed at the north entrance to Pikes Peak Center.
This year’s AOTS budget clocked in at almost $95,000 and was funded by grants, donations, sponsorships and contracts for service. No city money was used.