Street Art

One of the noticeable features of downtown Colorado Springs is its public art. Similar to other American communities, suburban spread in the 1980s resulted in a lackluster city center. This dilemma was addressed in the early 1990s when the city council adopted an action plan, which led to the formation in 1997 of what became the Downtown Colorado Springs Partnership with its goal to revitalize and beautify the town core for residents, visitors, and business owners alike.

Two years later, the Downtown Ventures arm of the organization introduced the first annual Art on the Streets initiative, thereby beginning what has become a highly appreciated and eagerly awaited homage to public art each summer. The program, now in its 23rd year, “celebrates the power of art in public places while turning the streets of Downtown Colorado Springs into a yearlong outdoor sculpture gallery.”

Each year, artists interested in participating submit their proposals and a select group of them is chosen to install their art, which is then evaluated by a group of jurors and may be awarded a prize. In the first year, 20 artist revealed 20 different sculptures. This year, 12 new works were selected from a record-setting 168 proposals. What started with sculptures has meanwhile expanded to include murals and additional art forms.

The city purchases at least one of the annual entries and private individuals and businesses may choose to purchase others. Of the more than 300 artworks exhibited since the program’s inception, over 50 have become permanent. Add to these private and corporate art displays and it is easy to imagine how the heart of Colorado Springs has been transformed into the outdoor art gallery envisioned by the plan’s creators.

To join in the yearlong commemoration of a significant milestone in Colorado Springs history—its 150th birthday on July 31, 1871—I will on occasion share some of my favorite downtown displays in celebration of the city’s sesquicentennial. One feature not previously mentioned is the imaginative makeover of what would otherwise be gray and boring traffic signal boxes. Along many downtown street intersections, these signal cabinets showcase local scenery, landmarks, historic personalities, or simply fun and whimsical subjects, such as in today’s post. Enjoy!

The photo on top from April 30, 2021 shows the northeast corner of the intersection of Tejon and Vermijo Streets, with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum in the background.

33 thoughts on “Street Art

    • Synchronicity, Steve?
      I think all of the traffic control boxes meet your criteria for what public art should be, but there are some murals that make a political statement. One of them is very powerful and will be part of one of my future posts. I look forward to hearing your opinion about it. 🙂


      • Not having seen that mural yet, I can’t pass judgement (I like the British spelling with an e after the g). What concerns me, though, is that whatever group is in power and will authorize political works that reflect the in-group’s beliefs and will never authorize any works, no matter how high the quality, that reflect an opposing viewpoint. That’s already been happening for years. For example, in the current climate, no conservative book, regardless of how scholarly, insightful, and well written, will ever win a Pulitzer Prize. Similarly, no art gallery in an Ivy League university will ever exhibit a painting extolling American patriotism.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm….all art is political in some sense, in my opinion. Who is to say what is “high quality” art? And I guess, being from New England, I admire all the quote “conservative” art and architecture of Concord or Boston, as well as the “liberal” art seen at the Museum of Fine arts or other modern galleries. To my mind, it’s all about everyone having a voice. Just my two cents. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your comment, Julie.
        I think some art is apolitical, eg. in the case of the whimsy dogs on the traffic boxes.

        At the other extreme, there are statues of Stalin or Hitler, or Confederate Generals.
        This opens an important discussion about the role art plays. Should it entertain? Entertain and educate? Educate alone?

        It’s a complex and controversial question–another one!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wonderful. I love the dogs, and am delighted to see the library (or bookshop?) shelves. Art on the Streets is a great way to brighten up the streets, and also gives talented artists a chance to show off their talents to people who think they don’t like art! Looking forward to more posts in this series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll be interested to see more from Colorado Springs, and compare to to our nearby city Worcester, which hosts “stART on the Street” each year, with several hundred artists, and craftspeople displaying their work. Ah, Summer! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those cute little doggies make me smile. The second one from the left reminds me of our bonus dog, a Danish-Swedish farm dog, that we take care of when its owners go abroad or places where dogs are not allowed. 🙂
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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