Enchanted By The Public Art

About six weeks ago I alluded to the fact I was moving to take up a new job.  A month ago I joined the City of Loveland, Colorado Cultural Services to lead the Rialto Theater.  I have told people that I effectively talked myself into the position before my in person interview due to exploring the city a little bit. I had come out to interview just before Labor Day weekend and with all the delays and cancellations, I booked the earliest flight I could and subsequently arrived too early to check into my hotel.

I went to the visitor welcome center, but soon ended up at the Chapungu Sculpture Park which is apparently the largest collection of stone sculpture by Zimbabwean artists in North America. I am not entirely clear what led to the collection of all these works for the park because it is not part of the city art in public places program, but I am told the artists were living in various parts of the US as political exiles during the administration of Robert Mugabe and were unfortunately later deported back to Zimbabwe and unable to take their work with them.

The sculpture work is extremely interesting, especially since except for winches, no mechanical tools are used in the quarrying and shaping of the stones.

The New Child by Saidi Sabiti
Spirit Protecting Family by Fabion Madamombe
‘Mawuya’ Welcome by Colleen Madamombe

Having seen so much public art in such a short period of time, (there were a number of pieces at the welcome center), I was excited by the prospect of working in a community with such a vibrant arts environment. This continued to be borne out by the dance studios, galleries, and artist housing/studio space within a block of the theater.

After my interview, I swung by the Benson Sculpture Garden which has even more acreage and pieces. There are so many striking pieces there, I didn’t bother to grab some photos for this post. You can see most of them (up to 2016, there have been some more added) on this map. These pieces are largely made of bronze, in part due to the historic presence of foundries in the area.

Of course, there are hundreds of other pieces of public art scattered throughout the community as part of the percent for art program.

There is often a discussion about how people like to live in a community with many arts and cultural amenities, even if they don’t attend them, simply because part of their self-image involves being a person who would live in such a community. I have spoken to many people who grew up here who talk about how Loveland used to be seen as the buck-tooth rural rube of a cousin in comparison with surrounding communities, but that this perception has changed in the last twenty years or so. Many attribute it to the arts and culture vibe which has attracted companies and residents to the community.

A couple weeks after I moved here, I went back to the Benson Sculpture garden in order to see all the pieces I was sure I had missed on my first visit. I was excited to see scads and scads of young people wandering around the space. They almost out numbered the adults.

Then I realized that the location was a super hot site for playing Pokemon-Go. Still, despite the fact that these folks were peering closely at their phones as they wandered about, it did appear they were appreciating many of the sculpture pieces they were wending around to catch their prey. Ultimately I was pleased that someone had chosen to align the game with the gardens and get people interacting with the art.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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