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Chris Weed’s street art whimsy

SemiNative

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Weed’s 2009 submission to Art on the Streets. - COURTESY DOWNTOWN PARTNERSHIP
  • Courtesy Downtown Partnership
  • Weed’s 2009 submission to Art on the Streets.
In some ways, little has changed in the last 20 years for local artist Christopher Weed. He lives in the same house just outside downtown. He’s still making art.

But in most ways everything has changed for Weed.

“Early on when I moved to the Springs, I was showing on a monthly basis,” he recalls. “In a good month, I’d have $450 in sales.”

At that time, he had low overhead and could survive on the income. Today, his public art commissions fetch six figures and he has a design team of six, which includes fabricators, architects and engineers: “My crew has 150 years of experience combined.”

He now owns the house where he once rented the upstairs apartment, and instead of creating art in the garage, he rents a 2,000-square-foot facility where most of his sculpture fabrication takes place. His work can be found throughout the state and nation and abroad. And Weed no longer has to chase the work — his last eight public art commissions have come to him.

Weed moved to the Springs in 1990 after spending some years in Germany, where he was studying and working odd jobs like roofing and driving a taxi. He decided to make the move back to the States to finish his degree, a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Maryland. His break into the Colorado Springs public art scene came with his “Watermelon” submission to the 2000 Art on the Streets competition, a project of the Springs’ Downtown Partnership. It was purchased and became part of the permanent downtown collection. (His first public art commission was for Front Range Community College in 1998.)

It was 2012 when Weed last participated in Art on the Streets, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. His last submissions were “Portal 1” and “Portal 2.” The first, a 30-foot-tall, 4-plus-ton abstract retro television, sat outside Plaza of the Rockies on South Tejon Street. “Portal 2” was inside the building and incorporated video created by his brother Matthew, who died of leukemia in 2011.
Weed credits the program with helping launch his career in the public art arena. “It afforded me the chance to make these monumental pieces that could be sold elsewhere,” he says. “Red Paperclips,” which was on display in the 2009 Art on the Streets, later sold in Michigan.

“I don’t make my living in Colorado, I couldn’t actually,” says Weed, who completed six public art commissions last year, only two of which were in-state. He already has another five projects set up this year. He views Colorado Springs as his home base, but now spends much of his time traveling. (When I called to ask some follow-up questions for this column, he was in the airport about to embark on a week-long trip to China.)

To capture the international appeal of Weed’s style, the words “whimsical” and “enormous” come to mind. From the sunflowers that sprout from the median in front of The Antlers hotel on Cascade Avenue (also part of the permanent collection of downtown art) to 14-foot-tall jacks and a red ball at Discovery Park in Parker, his sculptures are often familiar objects on a much grander scale.

If you smile when you look at his work, that’s his intention. “I do what I do because I want adults to see art through the eyes of a child.”

He wants to elicit more than just a smile though. He says, “I’m not just creating art — I want to create a sense of place and community.”

With the scope of his work and projects, he spends as much time handling the business side of being an artist as he does creating art. He says he probably spends four hours a day on his computer. But the business focus doesn’t diminish his passion for the work. And the passion is something he shares. With every commission he works in opportunities to engage with community, including speaking to children in schools. He addresses the importance of art in the public realm and encourages kids to pursue a career in the arts.

Kids always ask how much money he makes. “I just smile and tell them there’s a good living to be made if you can persevere,” he says. “The odds are totally against you, but that doesn’t have to be the case.”

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