Nearly 50 people received a guided tour Saturday of Colorado Springs’ outdoor art “gallery” — sculptures, murals and other fanciful creations scattered throughout downtown.
The 21st annual Art on the Streets exhibit, a project by Downtown Ventures which debuted in June, sought to cover walls, sidewalks and alleyways with outdoor artwork.
Susan Edmondson, CEO of Downtown Partnership, led the first group of 25 people down Tejon Street, stopping every few minutes to direct the crowd’s attention to an installment.
“It was a really fun year this year,” said Edmondson, “We did something different. For the first time in our 21 years, we added murals to the exhibit.
“This has always been a sculpture exhibit, but we heard a lot of folks saying that they want more murals downtown. So, in our call for entry, we specifically asked for muralists as well.”
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.
Art on the Streets puts out an annual call for entries worldwide through its website. Artists submit concepts that are selected by jurors to be installed around town.
This year, artists from around the world submitted 112 proposals. Five Colorado artists were selected, along with seven others around the U.S. and one from Brazil. Stipends for winners increased this year to $2,000.
The people’s pick this year appears to be the sculpture at 401 North Tejon Street outside Wild Goose Meeting House: a stegosaurus and its baby made out of machinery parts.
“I have a wandering mind, so having a pile of used machine parts in front of me, with a few ideas turning into many ideas, is the perfect way to keep me happy,” wrote Paul Lippart of his “Johnny Stegosaurus” sculpture.
Public artwork can help with problem solving in a pragmatic way, Edmondson told the tour group. During the fall and winter, sculptures help fill the void in the city’s gardens. A mural painted over downtown’s storm drains reminds viewers of water conservation. Cubes constructed of mirrors lighten dark alleyways.
“(They’re) very creative solutions,” Edmondson said. “We’re always looking to use art for problem solving, to make a great urban environment.”
At the end of a one-year temporary lease, the city, individuals or businesses can decide to purchase the art. The artist also has the option of reclaiming their work.
This year’s winner of the $10,000 award was muralist Mauricio Ramirez with “Fire in my Sol” on the side of Penrose Library.
“I think when people see public art downtown it makes a statement about our city that we value the work of our artists and that we set a standard for our public work environment,” said Edmondson.
“I hear all the time from people that what they took away from visiting Colorado Springs was our art.”