Public art makes the landscape more pleasing to the eye, but it can also make a telling statement about the shared values of a neighborhood and its residents. In Stapleton, the famed urban redevelopment of the old Denver airport, green ethics are reflected not only in the community's sustainable building materials and pedestrian walkways, but also in its civic landmarks. “The Eye of the Horizon,” an elliptical sculpture slated for completion this summer on the median of East 29th Avenue, will be made of recycled granite. Another large-scale art installation, set to anchor the community's Northfield Town Center, will transform vertical stabilizers from the tails of retired 737s into four 14-foot aluminum art forms, kinetically powered by a hydraulic system. Future plans call for urban sculptures fashioned from reconstituted “Staplestone,” the concrete amalgam that once paved the airport's runways.
These iconic works, honoring Stapleton's history in both theme and substance, are the fruits of a $2.75 million “public art master plan,” financed with tax increment funding from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority. Art acquisitions are made by committees of local artists, business owners, community leaders, and Stapleton residents, as well as residents of adjacent neighborhoods. The selection process is virtually NIMBY-proof and has made the community, developed by Forest City Enterprises, more cohesive.
“These pieces are more than aesthetic; they signal gathering places that bring people together in a social and engaged atmosphere,” says Barbara Neal, former director of the Colorado Council for the Arts who now serves as a public art consultant to Stapleton. The art also expresses a cornerstone of Forest City's green philosophy. “Environmental responsibility is a big part of what Stapleton is about,” Neal says.
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