As many have already seen — and photographed — a flock of parrots has landed downtown. And these 48 inflated parrots encased in polyvinyl chloride beckon you to look at the space where they hang — in the airspace above a Tejon Street alley — differently. "Poly Poly," by local artist Sean O'Meallie, is one of 13 large-scale sculptures that have been planted throughout the downtown business district for the 17th annual Art on the Streets program.
Some of the pieces on display include an oversize mousetrap by David W. Mernitz of Westcliffe; a gyro-interactive set of recycled bicycle wheels, connected on one axis allowing them to spin freely, by Sean Mueller and Jarod Charzewski of South Carolina; and giant blades of grass by Eric McCue of the Springs.
New this year is a partnership with Mountain Metropolitan Transit, which brings three pieces for display to the new transit gallery in the downtown terminal.
"It's nice to be able to give people that little moment of unexpectedness," says Lara Garritano, creative district manager for the Downtown Partnership, which stands at the helm of this inspiring tradition. "I believe that public art adds vibrancy to business, tourism, and an all-around quality of life."
A four-member jury sifted through 73 artist submissions from more than 19 states, with 18 from Colorado cities alone.
"Jurors want to make sure they select art of the highest quality. Ultimately [the works] are a collection of pieces that will work well together as an exhibit through the downtown business area," Garritano says.
After choosing what to display, jurors also select one piece for the Juror Award, including a $10,000 prize. That will be revealed at the AOTS launch party Thursday, June 18, which will include live entertainment and mini-tours of the new batch of on-street art.
After the works live on the streets for a year, a people's choice winner will be chosen to receive a $1,000 prize. As always, the endeavor is entirely privately funded. That includes the costs of removing old works, installing the new, and supplying the participating artists with a $1,000 stipend.
According to the Downtown Partnership, AOTS has brought over 200 works into the area (some of which stay on, if a buyer steps forward), in addition to the more than 50 pieces permanently installed from other programs and parties.
This year's jury includes Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center museum director Blake Milteer, returning for a third year; David Tryba, a local architect; local artist and winner of last year's Juror Award Andy Tirado; and Galleries of Contemporary Art director Daisy McConnell, who is new to the group.
"Ultimately, when you're talking about public art, you really want something that will make people engage with the piece, [to give you] that spark when you're driving down the street," McConnell says. "You want something that activates the public space, and to do something that other things, like downtown signage, could never do."
Garritano agrees, "The point of this is to have the power of art collaborate with the business district."
"I think the one that stood out to me the most was 'Poly Poly.' It activates that space," says McConnell.
Or, as O'Meallie put it in AOTS literature, "I thought this space could use some inflated toy parrots."