Two Pair

Art on the Streets breaks new ground with 85 artists, 12 sculptures and two unique judges who only sometimes agree

| June 20, 2012
Thomas Givens’ ‘Humpback Whale Tail’
Thomas Givens’ ‘Humpback Whale Tail’
- Brienne Boortz
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Art on the Streets
Through next summer
Downtown, between St. Vrain Street and Vermijo Avenue, Nevada and Cascade avenues

It's a bold thing to debate art early in a marriage, especially when both parties are collectors and tasked with judging a public art competition.

But Jim Raughton and Kathy Loo, wedded now 3½ years, are still going strong after jurying Art on the Streets, the 14-year-old annual outdoor art exhibit that brings sculpture to downtown.

"So far we haven't agreed too much this year," Loo says with a laugh.

Raughton counters that after last year, they've learned to compromise. This is their second year judging the competition, and last. With a few exceptions, past jurors — like Adam Lerner, who now heads the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver — usually serve just one season. Yet their taste and enthusiasm led to Raughton and Loo being asked back.

The couple, who met through art (Raughton spoke on the Loo collection at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and was connected to Loo herself by a friend), say their charge with this competition and exhibit is not only fun, but as Raughton says, "is a continuing part of our romantic adventure together."

Their sensibilities haven't gone the way of sentimentality, rest assured.

"We both come to it with love for the community and the art," Raughton says, adding that the arts are a proven economic driver. It beautifies the city, he says, and puts it on the map nationally. When a city says it supports the arts, he says, "artists begin to tell that story to each other."

Healthy competition

Perhaps that's already happened, with this year's number of artist entrants at an all-time high, about 85. This is due in part to a new, all-online entry process, says Denise Schall, program coordinator for the Downtown Partnership, which organizes the show.

Raughton and Loo whittled those down to the final 12 and then chose three winners, announced last Friday at an opening reception. The pair judged works on many levels, including craftsmanship, their ability to withstand the elements (and people), and whether the art functions well in an outdoor and public arena.

Both are longtime local philanthropists and collectors of regional American and Native American art, to put it simply. Loo is an artist herself who served six years on City Council and contributed enough to the FAC to have a gallery named after her and her late husband Dusty Loo. Raughton didn't come from an artistic background, but has collected most of his life and worked in design as a city planner for Aurora, Lakewood and Boulder and in private practice.

Needless to say, they know what they're doing.

"I value those pieces that I found relevant, that they somehow spoke to our traditions and culture in Colorado and Colorado Springs," says Raughton. "And I think that gave some artists an edge in my mind."

Hailing from the area isn't important, as the international entries proved, though two of the chosen group, Chris Weed and Dale Pittock, live here. The same goes for returning artists. Though Weed is a longtime participant, nine of this year's 12 artists are new to the competition.

"I think it's important for the judges to be really open to a broad range of art and not, you know, just be so into abstract art that they don't really care about other things, or vice versa," says Loo.

As Schall can attest, choosing the art is hard enough, but finding the right place for it is another challenge. Schall helps Loo and Raughton with plotting the show's layout, and coordinates with Utilities, the city and the artists themselves in placing the work. For instance, Thomas Givens' "Humpback Whale Tail" was tried at two locations (a water main and sprinkler paths played a role) before finding its ultimate spot near U.S. Bank.

Entering the portal

That whale tail, by the way, took second place, sending Givens home with a $7,500 prize.

First place — and $15,000 — stayed right here, going to Weed for his sculpture duo "Portal 1" and "Portal 2," a set of retro-looking televisions that stand 30 and 14 feet high. (See our cover.) Made of stainless and powder-coated steel, they keep in Weed's spirit of seamless craftsmanship and playful lines.

Both located at the Plaza of the Rockies, the larger, outdoor "Portal" lights up in an LED rainbow throughout the night while its indoor sibling showcases two actual monitors that play an 11-minute loop from Weed's videographer brother, who died last summer.

Not that it made for easy choices, Raughton insists. "Virtually every piece, with a few exceptions, vastly exceeded my expectations."

"It really tested us," he says. "It was scary."

Weed's work, though, was hard to refuse. Loo called it his possible "pièce de résistance."

"I was not really prepared for it to be what it is," she says. "It's a piece of art that transcends the space."

edie@csindy.com

Chris Rench’s ‘Caught Up II’
Chris Rench’s ‘Caught Up II’
- Brienne Boortz
Dale Pittock’s ‘Watts New’
Dale Pittock’s ‘Watts New’
- Brienne Boortz
Justin Deister’s ‘Mr. Toolman’
Justin Deister’s ‘Mr. Toolman’
- Brienne Boortz

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Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Art on the Streets doesn't know its art from its eyesore.

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Posted by bert hansell on 06/21/2012 at 6:25 PM

Bert,

That's a rather ambiguously bitter comment. Would you be willing to elaborate on why you feel the way that you do?

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Posted by bradley flora on 06/22/2012 at 2:40 AM

A big TV set is art? Come on get real. Henry Moore will be turning over in his grave.

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Posted by bert hansell on 06/22/2012 at 12:40 PM

From the jurors mouth, "I value those pieces that I found relevant, that they somehow spoke to our traditions and culture in Colorado and Colorado Springs". Somebody please explain to me how this TV monstrosity is relevant to our traditions or culture and why Watts New, which in additional to being visually stunning clearly embodies a theme of sustainability, innovation, and environmental consciousness did not even place. It's absurd and the jurors should explain just what kind of culture they are trying to promote in this art-starved city.

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Posted by Jesse Rebeck on 06/22/2012 at 3:21 PM

"A big TV set is art? Come on get real. Henry Moore will be turning over in his grave."

And why not? I think it sits well in the space, and if you look at the narratives: either assumed, metaphorical, or literal there is certainly some compelling depth to explore intellectually (especially when you consider its companion piece).

Henry Moore certainly created many great sculptures, but why should his style, and the trends of that era which influenced his style, be the sole cultural reference when considering contemporary work?

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Posted by bradley flora on 07/26/2012 at 3:35 PM

"Somebody please explain to me how this TV monstrosity is relevant to our traditions or culture and why Watts New, which in additional to being visually stunning clearly embodies a theme of sustainability, innovation, and environmental consciousness did not even place."


Television is, culturally, one of the defining threads which connects us all together as Americans. Who today has a flat screen TV? Who doesn't?!

I know, I know, there are quite a few people who don't have a TV in fact, so I see where you are coming from. But isn't owning a TV considered part of the classically defined American Dream?

I think Chris' work plays off of this, especially at night, when viewed from across the street and seen in the larger context of the surrounding architecture. . .


To say " Watts New" did not place is slightly incorrect. It made it into the top twelve, it made it onto the streets. Maybe it didn't make it into the position of accolades for some reason we can't see, something that only spoke to the juror's heart may have held it back, or pushed the other pieces to the top.

The juror's obviously appreciated it. We still get to see it and talk about it.


To say this city is art starved seems incorrect as well. We're talking about 12 new public sculptures that are free to view. Whether you like them or not, they do offer an increased potential for cultural expansion and understanding. How are they not art?

How does the work in the downtown art walk, on first fridays, not meet the definition of art? Or the work hanging in Old Colorado City, at the BAC, at Mountain Living Studios, at CottonWood, at the Fine Art Center, at Smokebrush, at the Modbo, or S.P.Q.R., or any one of countless coffee shops or galleries ranging from Manitou to Powers not meet the definition of art?

I mean, sure, if you don't like the work then you can say its not art...but even then it's still "art" ...maybe its just "bad art".

And if it is "bad art" then why not let it be an influence which can push your own creative self away in a new direction?


Just because we are taught that the cultural center of our Society is New York, or L.A. does not mean the we not excel with our unique spirit and our own unique visual (or musical) language.

As viewers of art, we always have to be aware of how our preconceptions influence our opinion of the work.

I'm not sure you'll ever even see this, considering how much has passed under the bridge since your post, but I suggest you love what you love, and don't let those preconceptions dampen that love.

If you like "Wats New" then agknowlege it as art, appreciate how its glow adds to this city, pushing forth new ideas forth that drench us with its enlightenment.


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Posted by bradley flora on 07/26/2012 at 4:04 PM
Showing 1-6 of 6

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