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.