"Continuum" is getting a face-lift.
Sculptor Bill Burgess and architect David Barber's $1.8 million sculpture, also called the Julie Penrose Fountain, that rests plumply in America the Beautiful Park had developed a rusty-looking tarnish after a decade of battling the elements and being regularly bathed in the chemically-treated water that runs throughout the four-story, 24-ton revolving steel helix.
It had gotten so bad Burgess couldn't bring himself to look at the City of Colorado Springs-commissioned work.
"After awhile it began to change color - it was happening slowly," said Burgess, 87. "It got worse and worse. I got to where I didn't even want to look at it. I would just avoid it."
After being selected from almost 150 proposals in 2001 to anchor the new park, the mammoth piece of art was installed in 2007. In 2008 the city paid to have the sculpture cleaned, among other improvements, said Matt Mayberry, director of the Pioneers Museum and cultural service manager for the city. But after the economic downturn that same year, there was no money for regular maintenance of any of the city's almost 100-piece public art collection.
"The museum is responsible for the care and maintenance of the outdoor sculpture collection," Mayberry said. "Maintenance that happens on the piece is more to the mechanical system and the pumps and water filtration and water quality issues - that happens all the time. This is more of an aesthetic cleaning."
Burgess, along with his family and his partner Kat Jorstad, expressed their concerns about "Continuum" to Nora Hardin, former executive directer of the Pikes Peak Arts Council, which awarded Burgess the Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 PPAC Awards. She, in turn, sought out Mayberry who was aware of the need to spruce up the fountain. It was mainly the cost holding the work back.
"You have to prioritize," Mayberry said. "We were aware this needed to happen, but it's just where it falls on the priority list."
Hardin's prompting, along with the visible staining, made the sculpture an ideal candidate for work this year.
"Every year it gets worse," said Mayberry, "and we had some resources we could make available to it. A few years ago we cleaned the (Gen. William Jackson) Palmer sculpture up. It had been in need for decades. That's what happened this year (with 'Continuum')."
Springs Fabrication won the contract and will complete the work for $49,000. The project is funded through lottery dollars earmarked for sculpture maintenance, the Trails and Open Space Coalition program and funds donated for park maintenance.
Workers will power wash and blast the sculpture to remove stains and an abrasive agent will remove the coating and bring it back to its original appearance. Several thousand dollars of the project's cost is devoted to preventative maintenance.
"It will keep it looking better for longer," Mayberry said. "The other part is we know we can't clean it every year or every other year, as we might want to, so we are going to have to monitor it and see how the preventative maintenance holds up. This is what we do with the entire sculpture collection."
The weather-dependent work began around mid-May and is expected to be completed Wednesday. The fountain will be up and running Thursday.
As for Burgess, the longtime artist is resting easier these days.
"I feel really good for the present time," he said. "I don't know what the future will bring. We won't know for awhile, for a few years. In the meantime, I might drive by and take a look."