Amplifying Auraria art

Renovation to sculpture part of wider effort to spruce up, expand campus art

January 17, 2013
Students in the Public Art class at CU Denver restore a sculpture on the Auraria Campus.
Students in the Public Art class at CU Denver restore a sculpture on the Auraria Campus.

A project led by the University of Colorado Denver to spruce up a landmark sculpture on the Auraria Campus has grown into a wider effort to better maintain and promote public art on the downtown campus.

Rian Kerrane, associate professor of sculpture, established the Public Art class as part of the College of Arts & Media curriculum to engage students with established artists, as well give them an opportunity to create public art pieces. The class noticed that the paint had faded on Windsong V, a sculpture installed near the P.E. Building in 1983 by renowned Denver artist Robert Mangold.

“Some of the artwork we have on our campus looks a little lost and forlorn right now,” Kerrane said.

The piece is part of a much larger series of work by Mangold. Students in this fall’s Public Art class — Brian Ward, Laura Phelps Rogers, Matt Evans and Kevin Turvey — inspected Windsong V and gave a condition report to the artist. The class invited Mangold back to campus to discuss the piece’s history and come up with a work plan.

Shannon Corrigan, director of Emmanuel Gallery on the Auraria Campus and a collaborator in the conservation project, said the colorful sculpture didn’t have as much paint loss as expected. Mostly, it was in need of a thorough cleaning, which was achieved by twice renting a cherry picker and scrubbing the piece with hot water.

“It was great news that the piece ended up being in much better shape than we anticipated,” Corrigan said. “It went really smoothly.”

Kerrane said her class is now working with Auraria Higher Education Center to set up a tri-institutional group that coordinates maintenance of Auraria art.

“We need to improve the pieces on the campus. We’re such a viable downtown venue, and we’re walking distance from many notable sculptures,” Kerrane said. “There’s a wonderful public art collection in Denver, and we have a nice collection on campus. It’s a wonderful way to link us with downtown.”

To further encourage public art and drive pedestrian traffic onto Auraria, Kerrane hopes to launch a biannual event — a curated sculpture garden — on the campus. Such an event would help her students learn even more about public art — how pieces are proposed, how the art is fabricated for public display and plans for longtime maintenance.

In 2011, her students restored a sculpture by Betty Gold that sits outside the Auraria Library.

Evans recently completed his own public art project, an arrow that is installed at the end of the Lawrence Street Mall, in front of St. Cajetan’s Center. More student pieces will be an outgrowth of the Public Art class.

Meanwhile, the base of Windsong V still needs some touching up and the waxing process will be repeated every six months.

“He just had a nice review in Sculpture Magazine,” Kerrane said. “He’s an established, regional Colorado artist.”

Windsong V was donated to the Auraria Campus by a group of supporters including Marvin Naiman, Tom and Noel Congdon, Sue and George Cannon and George Anderson.