Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Green Mountain Falls hosts Green Box Arts Festival and "Cloud City" exhibit

By Jen Mulson Published: June 20, 2013

"Cloud City" will rise up out of the dirt in Green Mountain Falls.

The large-scale, honeycomb-like sculpture is one of the highlights of the Green Box Arts Festival, launched in 2009. The festival runs Sunday through July 3, though "Cloud City" will be around through July 13.

The Green Box Arts Festival offers numerous daytime workshops, such as drawing, painting, theater, photography and jewelry making, as well as evening performances by local, regional and national acts such as The Haunted Windchimes, the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony, nationally known fiddler Kyle Dillingham and professional dance companies Ormao Dance Company and Keigwin + Company.

Green Box is the brainchild of New York City-based philanthropist Christian Keesee, chairman of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, Kirkpatrick Bank, Kirkpatrick Oil Company and president of Kirkpatrick Family Fund.

Keesee, an avid art collector, owns "Cloud City."

"I try my best to collect what I like, and ignore the monetary element of art collecting," he writes in an email.

"Cloud City," created by Argentinean artist and architect Tomas Saraceno, is 36 feet high and weighs 20 tons. The 16 modules made of plexiglass, fiberglass, steel, cables, giant bolts and stainless steel mirrors are roomy enough for visitors to walk inside, as the environment is reflected in all angles.

"It's a building and a sculpture," said Graham Stewart, the engineer behind the assembly, as his crew worked to put together the installation that admits only 11 visitors at a time.

"Cloud City" made its first appearance as last year's summer commission in the roof garden at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. More than 500,000 people experienced the piece there, before it traveled in May via eight semi trucks from its New York City storage facility to Colorado.

"You find yourself sorting through the elaborate, often dizzying, interpenetrating reflections of its structure, the sky, the Met, the city, Central Park," wrote Roberta Smith, an arts reviewer for The New York Times. "Up becomes down; the towers and facades of Central Park West seem to change places with Fifth Avenue's.

"You see yourself, or your fellow visitors, everywhere."

Owner Keesee is part of the Kirkpatrick family, who have lived in the Green Mountain Falls area since the 1900s. Keesee grew up in Oklahoma, but during the summers, they'd escape to the cool, green hills 11 miles west of Colorado Springs, a location he still embraces today.

"Some of my fondest memories took place during my summers in Green Mountain Falls," he writes. "It's the perfect place for a kid to be independent, but not get into too much trouble."

The roots of the festival started in 2006, when Keesee invited Keigwin + Company, the professional dance company from New York City, for a dance residency program. While the dancers were professional, other activities sprouted naturally, and were overseen by his family and the people who worked for them.

"Keigwin + Company took part in a casual residency; the house chef held cooking class; my personal assistant took care of all graphic work and the budget at the time was zero," he writes. "I do not want the festival to grow any larger, but I would like to continue attracting world-class artists while keeping the family atmosphere."

For him, the setting was a natural choice for a festival

"I think it is important for Green Mountain Falls to be thought of as an art destination," he writes. "The goal is to expose the community to national and international art/artists that would otherwise never make its way to Colorado, all while enjoying the beautiful backdrop of the mountains."

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Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.

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