As the start of a new year (and a new decade) draws near, it’s time to look ahead at what the next revolution around the sun will bring us. In Denver, the beginning of each year is punctuated with the announcement of new public art projects through the P.S You Are Here (PSYAH) grants, as part of IMAGINE 2020. Last year, PSYAH grants awarded nearly $60,000 to local creative groups and this year the funding reached even higher, with $79,000 provided to 11 projects.
The funded (or partially funded) ventures must be short-term projects that exist outdoors and transform underutilized spaces. In the past, these projects have included yarn-bombing by Ladies Fancywork Society at Sloan’s Lake, the mural in the huge drainage canal in Montbello by Thomas “Detour” Evans, the Happy City intervention and the investigation of tiny homes at RedLine.
This year, the 11 projects are dominated by ones that recontextualize historical concepts or that focus on environmental stewardship and upcycled materials. If you can’t wait for these to start happening and want to see some public art, check out these 9 things you probably didn’t know are public art projects in Denver.
“Bluebird Haiku” by the Bluebird Business Improvement District: $5,000
Haiku are short poems that fit within a simple framework — three lines of text, the first line with five syllables, the second with seven and the final with five again. Haiku are some of the world’s oldest forms of poetry, but in this PSYAH project, the ancient format will be modernized using laser-cut stencils. The Bluebird Business Improvement District (BID) will collect haiku poems from the public, selecting 20 in total based on “creativity and how they capture the essence and history of Colfax Avenue.” Then, students from East High School will cut the stencils and apply them to neighborhood sidewalks.
“Safety Through Art Along Via Verde” by BuCu West: $10,000
BuCu West is a development organization along the Morrison corridor in Westwood, focusing on efforts that combine business and culture in order to uplift the local artists and entrepreneurs that make the neighborhood vibrant and energetic. For this PSYAH project, BuCu West wanted to engage more community members with the artistic side of Westwood — an area known for its colorful mural scene — by painting intersection murals and creating large-scale recycled art installations in Friendship Alley. The murals will be designed and implemented by community members, with a focus on youth, and the recycled art piece will be directed by artist Sean Doherty.
“Color Field at the Lily Ponds” by City Park Friends and Neighbors: $8,000
Inspired by the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, “Color Fields at the Lily Ponds” is a whimsical project that will transform the historic Lily Pond space in City Park with painted gardening stakes planted in seedbeds and the drained pond. The effect, as summer blooms appear, will be an abstract vision of colorful fields (or an Impressionist painting). The installation also “aims to recall the history and beauty of the pond area while building momentum for current plans to restore the historic area.”
“Swim Club” by Deanne Gertner: $10,000
Deanne Gertner has been gaining traction in the last few years as an artist and advocate who aims to democratize art by offering affordable options to audiences who aren’t in the Blue Chip market and probably never will be. This PSYAH project is no different, and Gertner has chosen an especially interesting locale for it to occur — public swimming pools. Artist-designed pools or installations, in her account, are typically exclusive to privately owned ones. In “Swim Club” Gertner will coordinate with local Colorado artists to produce installations at three public swimming pools — Curtis Park, Green Valley Ranch and Garfield Park. Each installation will be developed off of input from the surrounding neighborhood and could include such activations as projections, shade structures, furniture, inflatables and more.
“Upriver Commute” by Helicopter Copter: $10,000
Helicopter Copter is a pseudonym for Michael John McKee, a local creative who loves working with sound and space. Last year, Helicopter Copter was awarded a PSYAH grant with well-known street artist Anthony Garcia Sr. to transform the Dry Gulch trail off West Colfax. This year, Helicopter Copter is working alone on a South Platte River stretch that serves a lot of Denver commuters. His sound installation will “change our relationship to the river and physical space” while also drawing commuters to the river in order to bring attention to our need for fresh, clean water and natural resources.
“Out of the Box in District 11” by Montbello Organizing Committee and Pat Milbery: $7,000
Montbello is on a mission to bring more art to the community, from the PSYAH grant last year that allowed Thomas “Detour” Evans to paint an enormous drainage canal, to this year’s PSYAH grant to paint utility boxes. The artist this year is Pat Milbery, founder of So-Gnar Creative Division. He will gather inspiration from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to paint natural scenery and animals such as bison and black-footed ferrets. The addition of educational components will engage the surrounding residents.
“Lunar New Year 2020, Year of the Rat: Community Tree of Fortune and Prosperity” by New Cottage Arts: $10,000
Little Saigon Business District, off Federal Boulevard, is a hub of Asian culture in Denver. In the middle sits a tree, and for this upcoming Lunar New Year, the tree will be decorated with bright red, glow-in-the-dark papier-mache rats to celebrate the coming Year of the Rat. The rats are billed as “whimsical” additions, with each one designed and constructed by community members and youth on certain auspicious days. The glow-in-the-dark paint and weatherproofing, applied by friends, family and volunteers, will allow the rats to exist through some amount of weather and draw the attention of passers-by.
“Kennedy Neighborhood Hub” by Parallel Artistic: $4,000
The Kennedy neighborhood in southeast Denver will have a new “Neighborhood Hub” in 2020 thanks to this PSYAH project aimed at transforming a bus stop and family gathering place with colorful placemaking, better crosswalk safety for kids, the addition of a Little Free Library and “public posting/sharing” space. The construction will be aided by community members who will eventually use the space.
“The CREATE Mural Project” by Project Voyce: $5,000
The CREATE “Culturally Responsive Engaged Art to Equalize” Mural Project is organized by youth in Denver who will be involved in a semester-long cultural arts class. During the semester, the students will gather images and text that highlight their community’s history. Then, everyone will collage their unique identities and heritage to create a mural that hopefully inspires others to learn about their own communities and past.
“The Diversity of Natural Healing” by UCAN North Metro Denver: $5,000
Currently, five planters sit unused at the I-70 viaduct near 46th Avenue and Lincoln Street. But, with the help of UCAN North Metro Denver, those planters will come alive once again. Replanted with a selection of native Colorado plants using xeriscape techniques (to minimize watering and maximize pollination and other natural processes) the resulting “gardens” will have traditional herbs used by healers from the cultures that make up the area — Native American, Mexican, South and Central American, Asian, Russian and Eastern European. Murals will accompany the planters, featuring images of the plants and brief descriptions of its history and uses.
“EnvironMENTAL Art” by Youth Employment Academy: $5,000
Through the course of a summer academy, a core team of youth will focus on reusable or recycled materials in the creation of outdoor creative placemaking installations for disadvantaged neighborhoods. First, the students of the intensive summer camp will research environmental issues in their own neighborhoods. Then they will look at the difference between low-income and high-income areas when it comes to environmental problems. The final component focuses on exploring artists who upcycle materials, like the well-known street artist Bordalo II, in order to create their own large upcycled public art piece in the Sun Valley Neighborhood.
Apply For Next Year
Interested in applying for a PSYAH grant for 2020-2021? There are some basic guidelines and principles you must follow. First of all, all applicants must be part of one of these groups: Registered Neighborhood Association (RNO), Business Improvement District (BID), Maintenance District, business association, art or creative district or placed-based organizations (non and for-profit). If you are an individual, a religious organization, a government agency, political group, newspaper or school (among other ineligible applicants), you can still apply if you are paired with one of the verified groups. Keep in mind that proposed projects must be located outdoors, in a public space and within Denver limits. All grants must be matched in-kind through cash or in-kind contributions (services and goods).
Generally, the timeline for applying starts in September, with award notifications sent out by the end of November (for the following year).
For more information, visit this website.