Around the globe, we see art increasingly used in public parks to create a strong sense of place and connection.
According to The Trust for Public Land, “research shows that parks promote public health and revitalize local economies, they connect people to the great outdoors and to each other.”
Individualizing parks through the use of public art can create a site that is meaningful, relevant and personal to the user as well as connect the site to the broader community.
In the outdoors, art creates conversation and community, cultivating a relationship to the place that evokes not only a personal association, but can also lead to site stewardship.
We know that to connect with a place means forming an emotional and imaginative attachment to the environment. Successful public art projects in parks set the stage for personal connection.
Seeing that October is Arts Month, I thought it would be an ideal time to celebrate the synergy between art and nature.
I have been involved in the creation of Panorama Park in southeast Colorado Springs since its inception, first as a resident, then contracted as an artist and community advocate, and now as the Community Outreach Resident Expert (CORE) Fellow for the Trust for Public Land, speaking up for the relationship between the great outdoors and artistic expression through community collaboration.
We know that successful art endeavors paired with engagement in the outdoors is not as simple as placing a sculpture on a meadow. It is about designing a piece that speaks specifically to the respective site, its audience and environmental conditions, and its history.
While a common perspective of the outdoors includes endless hiking trails, rolling rivers, single-track loops and campsites, for many in the Southeast, the outdoors means our backyards, picnic tables and outdoor barbecues that offer respite from being inside. We don’t have the amenities afforded to many.
Panorama Park will be our oasis.
In partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District’s Sand Creek branch, we are creating a tile art mosaic for the park, which includes more than 7,000 individually hand painted tiles that include pictures and messages from southeast residents, community partners and the city at large. We are more than 50% to our goal.
Tile designers include community leaders, teachers, students, and residents who have been reached throughout partnerships with the city, nonprofits, schools and local events.
The dual-paneled mosaic tells a story, celebrating the hopes and aspirations of our community and form images that speak to who we are, all within a park, which for many is less than a 10-minute walk from their home.
The public art piece allows us to put our fingerprint on the park, personalizing the open space and creating a welcome mat to all who visit. The art installation gives neighbors “ownership” of the area and provides a sense of belonging.
Much like the mosaic, an army of organizations throughout this city has shepherded the making of Panorama Park, and, together, we have created something beautiful.
Panorama Park is happening due to the tireless efforts of The Trust for Public Land, City of Colorado Springs, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department, the Pikes Peak Library District, RISE Southeast and the RISE Youth Advisory Council.
Organizations like Trails and Open Spaces Coalition, Catamount Institute, Generation Wild, and The North Face have stepped up to join the collaborative effort.
The following funding partners, in no particular order, believed in Panorama Park enough to invest: the Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Springs Health Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Gazette Charities and the Anschutz Foundation, H.A and Mary K. Chapman Charitable Trust, Gates Family Foundation, J. Henry Edmondson Foundation, Great Outdoors Colorado, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Transforming Safety Colorado and The Trust for Public Land.
Lastly, the Southeast community, a mosaic of races, genders and ethnicities, has joined forces to build a meaningful space that celebrates health, wellness, activity, exercise and engagement.
This is what happens when the public, private and philanthropic sectors work together, unleashing a sea of energy that makes this project, outdoor and creative, unstoppable. The community led efforts that have pioneered the Panorama Park renovation will set the standard for collaboration nationwide.
And, because of public art, the Southeast community will put its signature on the open space, celebrating the areas’ personality and spirit, its persona and moxie, continuing to perpetuate the reoccurring community theme of “stepping into our power” and “sharing our light.”
Art has given a voice to Panorama Park, making a lasting impression on residents and visitors alike.
Jeresneyka “Rizzo” Rose is a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Fellow with The Trust for Public Land. She has lived in southeast Colorado Springs for nearly two decades, and has worked as an artist and advocate for the community for the last seven years.