More than meets the eye

Sep 062011
Authors: Kristen Gaede

The Art in Public Places Program has deterred an unsightly graffiti problem by getting local artists to paint public property before the vandals can.

Ren Burke, the artist who painted the piano that is currently located on the east side of the Lory Student Center, said she thinks the program is working great.

“Graffiti artists are artists too, and they respect other artist’s work. Even if some the people who graffiti aren’t artists, and just some punk kids, it makes them think twice before they do it,” Burke said. “Things still get messed with, but hopefully by making them look cooler, chances are people won’t be screwing with them.”

It is estimated that the Art in Public Places project could save the city $130,000 during its lifetime by reducing the costs of maintaining and repairing graffiti on public property.

“We will have 120 cabinets done by the end of this summer,” said Ellen Martin, the visual arts administrator for the Art in Public Places Program. “The APP is intended to encourage and enhance artistic expression and appreciation and to add value to the Fort Collins community through acquiring, exhibiting and maintaining public art.”

The city’s art initiative includes several other programs to beautify Fort Collins. The APP programs include the Paver Project, Pianos About Town, Art in the Alleys, Transformer Cabinet Murals and the North side Aztlan Community Center Skate Park Mural.

“(Art in Public Places) is an expansive program with a history, we started in 1995. We run many projects at a time, and it is relative to what the city is working on and with our many partners too,”
Martin said. “We have been able to create great collaborations in town with the Downtown Development Authority, Bohemian Foundation, Team Fort Collins and the Poudre River Library District.”

Other cities are using Fort Collins as a model for their own beautification projects.

“We get calls from all over the country, all the time, from places who want to start it,” Martin said. “Loveland has a program now and so does Longmont. Everyone has taken the idea and gone their own direction with it.”

Pianos About Town is a collaboration between the Downtown Development Authority and Bohemian Foundation that adds music to the streets. The upright pianos feature the artwork of local artists and are displayed where anyone can play them as they pass by.

“This program is really putting the ‘public’ back in Public Art. (Artists) are encouraged to engage with the public while they work on their cabinets or pianos,” Burke said. “The piano project was a really fun for me. I got to know many of the citizens in town and getting the immediate feedback is great. It’s like being a musician or performer.”

The program is open to any Fort Collins residents or artists who has a studio space in town.

“When they ask you to show your portfolio, show your busiest work, even if you think its crap because it shows them that you have done it before,” Burke said. “Use bright colors and have busy patterns for your final design, and don’t leave a lot of empty space for taggers to use.”

Collegian Writer Kristen Gaede can be reached at

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