Monday, December 19, 2011

To be of use

by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come or the fire to be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Poetry While You Wait Submissions

Poets and poetry lovers – now is the time to submit your original poems to the Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Project for the next Poetry While You Wait poetry booklet. Submission is free and open to all residents, adults and children, of El Paso and Teller counties. This year, poems will be considered in English and foreign languages. If you wish to submit your poems in a foreign language, include your original foreign language poem and its English translation. All forms (free verse, blank verse, etc.) will be considered for publication. You may submit up to five poems, 30 lines or shorter, and suitable for public consumption, in the body of one e-mail, not an attachment, to Or mail to: Jim Ciletti, Poet Laureate, 1215 N. Union, Colorado Springs, 80909. Deadline is December 7, 2011. Please include your postal and e-mail address and phone number and a one-line bio with your submission. Poetry While You Wait will be published in Spring and distributed to waiting rooms, like your doctor’s or dentist’s office, tire stores, auto repair shops, beauty salons, barber shops, etc. – wherever there is a waiting area. Contact: Jim Ciletti - 634-2367.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tree-Ring Circus


The tree rings on the small tree on the sidewalk outside the COPPeR Office are part of the Art on the Streets (AOTS) public sculpture program that exhibits artwork for one year in Colorado Springs' downtown corridor. Eleven sculptors from around the country were juried in and invited to place work around town. I think this work has some properties that are atypical of artwork one typically finds in the area or as part of this type of art program.  And, it may be Colorado Springs' first multiple-sited, site-specific, community-specific artwork.  It might also be the largest.

It's challenging to create a work like this, because it follows contemporary art sensibilities and practices that don't get talked about much here. Maybe this is because there hasn't been anything like this, although an even larger art installation is going to take place in Manitou this October with The Chair Project. This work seeks to expand ideas about art, art making and art's value in the region.

After the work was installed, I emailed the organizers of the AOTS program to illuminate some of the reasons for my work. AOTS gave the installation a second place award, even though 

they did not have an artist statement at the time of adjudication.

As I explained in the email:

There is a gesture toward the businesses and activities in the vicinity of each sculpture siting--not in the rings themselves.  The rings are purposely non-objective and use a black & white color scheme to differentiate them from any common associations with other things. I changed pattern recognition on a couple of the trees to deviate from conformity and habituation of the viewer. One tree has colored rings, but it proves to be the hardest to find. 
The sites I chose were based on several factors:

-the physical characteristics of the tree  (straight saplings when possible)
-the visual aspects of the site  (noisy to serene sites, the rings have a different effect in each)
-frequency of occurrence and the use of both sides of the street (about 3 per block along 7 blocks)
-the kind of businesses or social activities in the immediate area  (the rings could bring visitors to each site, endorsing existing businesses and bring attention to vacancies or new businesses)
-the likeliness or unlikeliness of vandalism 

Following are site selection photos taken in early April followed by completed installation photos taken the morning of June 24, along with my thoughts and reasons about siting. At the end of the email is an artist statement and something about how the rings were made and installed.
Thank you for reading.

- Sean O'Meallie

Tree Ring Circus -
#1.   SW corner of Boulder & Tejon

This is the northernmost site.  Driving south, this begins the highly active stretch of Tejon Street.  There is usually a cluster of people in their teens and twenties and a few homeless folk hanging around the front door of the locally owned coffee shop located on this corner.  Seeing the crowd clustered here as I drive into downtown signals to me the the start of the active street culture of our downtown community.

#2.   320 N Tejon

In April, Richard Skorman, the owner of Poor Richard's restaurant, bistro and bookstore was a candidate for Colorado Spring's first "strong mayor." Richard is a recognized supporter of the creative class in the community, but not Republican in a largely Republican leaning county. I thought including this site would have meaning whether he won or lost the election. He lost. I want to honor Richard's commitment to the community and his aspiration to make Colorado Springs a more interesting place. This block has a huge amount of visitation due to Richard's businesses.

#3.   Tejon near Platte across from the El Paso Club

This area of Tejon St is the loneliest, grayest part of the entire street.  A lively nightspot called Jinx's Place used to be on this corner.  It could use a mural or a projected photo image of the former business.

#4.   SW corner of Platte & Tejon

This is a lush raised garden area at one of the most used intersections downtown.  Drivers wanting to bypass the shopping district or enter the shopping district, either cross or turn south onto Tejon St at this intersection.  The neighborhood immediately turns more urban.  Acacia Park is to the east.  The El Paso Club, the oldest man's club west of the Mississippi, is to the north. 

#5.   226 N Tejon

I love the urban clash of bikes with the tree here.  I intentionally kept the rings high on this one so that the use of the tree for securing bikes could continue. I also wanted to honor Mountain Chalet, one of Colorado Spring's favorite downtown fixtures. The bikes belong to residents of The Albany, a low income apartment house. The residents were very accommodating during the installation, removing all their bikes for the two hours necessary to install the armature and rings. They look after the artwork and are careful not to lean their bikes on the rebar.

#6.   214 1/2 N Tejon
Here's an empty storefront. It's been empty a long time. There are a few of these as backdrops to the tree treatments. Not only does the place look vacant, but it looks disregarded. I wondered if calling attention to this area would help advertise the location for the owner and additionally, for a new tenant.

#7.   Acacia Park

What an important urban community space this park is. Here, I'd like to honor Kat and Bob Tudor for their gifts and investments in the community. Their wildly popular Uncle Wilbur Fountain plaza is in the background below.

#8.   124 N Tejon

I chose this tree because of the setting and rhythm of the placements along the street.  Johannes Hunter is a long time downtown jeweler. I decided to incorporate a more intricate and lacy design motif on the rings. Michelle's candy store, once famous for its lace candies, chocolates and soda fountain, now defunct, slides into decrepitude next door.

115 N Tejon

Primarily chosen for physical and rhythmic reasons, I notice that the storefront advertises artmaking experiences available to anyone coming to their open classes.  Right next door is Lasko Fine Art, a very small art gallery finding a way to survive.

#10.   112 N Tejon

Bryan & Scott Jewelers has been around for 70+ years. It's my local gallery. Owner Roberto Agnolini has been supporting artists and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center for many years. The business and building are up for sale.

#11.   31 N Tejon - SE corner N of The Famous

This site offered a bit of a sidestep from the Tejon Street busyness, although a lot of vehicles and people go by. It seems a little off the path, but it's a nice little oasis. The spacing rhythm and backdrop led me to select this tree. The tree is full of 2" thorns. There's usually a homeless person sitting in the shade here. There's some office space available in the building behind.

#12.   30 N Tejon

Another empty storefront. Shewmaker's Cameras was an important resource for many artists in the community for many years. I knew a few of the employees. Not sure where they are now.

#13.   19 N Tejon

I'm not sure what all goes on in this building, but I needed a tree in the area and I thought the rings would fit with the architectural design of the entrance. There's a bank in the lobby and the county Public Defender's office. Perhaps the building is owned by LandCo, a local real estate developer in bankruptcy and tied to political and financial shenanigans with the former mayor and the U.S. Olympic Committee. The site is near the rowdy Cowboys bar and required a sturdy ring and armature.

#14.   3 N Tejon

Downtown's new 7 Eleven. This is on the corner of downtown's central intersection. Here the city is quadrisected into North, South, East and West. The building houses another bank, or used to. Now, a lot of youth and homeless hang out there and the downtown community makes good use of the convenience store's convenience. This tree required some of the largest rings in the installation, and sits kitty-corner from another large tree with rings. 

#15.   6 S Tejon:

Here North Tejon becomes South Tejon. US Bank has been a corporate financial sponsor for AOTS since it began. I used to bank at this location when it was Colorado Bank Exchange and had built some of the cabinetry in the lobby years ago when I was in that trade. This tree also required large rings. It plays a little with the tree in front of 7 Eleven, located diagonally across the intersection from this tree. A statue of Spencer Penrose is located nearby. 

#16.   15 S Tejon

The Ritz restaurant has been a local fixture for many years. My daughter works there and I know some of the employees. Every once in awhile, there's a scuffle or a stabbing within arm's length of this tree.  The tree also gets lots of water from leftover drinks and I suspect some mineral nutrients from an occasional puking. This probably goes for a number of the trees downtown. Here, the ring's black and white motif echos that of the Ritz. The bouncers and staff are helping to keep an eye on the sculpture.  

22 S Tejon

To foster alertness, I decided to use color on these rings. The sapling is one of the skinniest in the array and it's also tall. I chose this location for rhythmic layout reasons.

111 S Tejon

David Jenkins and his son Chris are developers and philanthropists and major supporters of the AOTS program. They've invested heavily in the community. I know Chris somewhat and I've spoken with David on the phone a few times. I wanted to acknowledge their contribution to local cultural organizations. I think the sophistication of the rings contrasts the sophistication of their architecture here, but both are clean modern ideas. During the installation of these rings, we were accosted by building security and threatened with dynamic emergency art extraction (they own the sidewalk!) until they discovered a gap in their internal communications. Now, Michael The Security Guard, and I are cool.

#19.   121 S Tejon

This tree, the smallest in the array, sits a few steps from the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR), a fledgling, community-supported organization that works to gather and disseminate information about cultural organizations and happenings to the community and tourism interests. It also works to educate and seek support for these same entities. This is a worthwhile effort by an earnest and dedicated group of civic-minded cultural activists. 

#20.   The Pioneers Museum

This former courthouse and county seat houses one of the most important historical collection of art and artifacts in the region.  Director Matt Mayberry is a dedicated historian, curator and cultural leader. The setting is quite nice. The rings, subtly present in the landscape. This is the last and southmost tree in the installation.

Tree Ring Circus is a multiple-location, site-specific art installation that makes use of intimate knowledge for the activities and history of the Tejon Street corridor in which it is sited.  The rings are specific to each tree and setting upon which they are situated.  The rings were fabricated about one mile from the site using local labor.
The artwork addresses the stated aims of the AOTS sculpture program.  The artwork is intended to fulfill the year long duration of the program and no longer.  The materials are impermanent and will not be re-sited or sold, but destroyed during their removal.  The artwork concept was planned to precisely meet the parameters of the AOTS program and yet, by intention, expand the possibilities of the program, enrich opportunities for artists and those invested in the success of the program and of downtown Colorado Springs.

The rings are non-objective, non-representational sculptural forms intended to evoke curiosity about their unlikely occurence, placement and recurrence along the streetscape, or to just be enjoyed for their existence.  The artwork
 is original and non-traditional.  It establishes its own syntax from which any viewer can derive meaning, question or enjoyment. 
All the rings are different across 20 different sitings.  They can be viewed and considered while driving or while walking the street.  The work is urban in conception, nature and setting and acknowledges the community and activities in which it exists and which support it.
Media / Fabrication / Installation:
The sculptures are made of Styrofoam sheeting, readily available from building suppliers and sold as insulation.  Foam circles were sawn to size, laminated to thickness, then hand shaped with rasps and sandpaper.  The rings were painted with exterior grade wood glue before being covered with two layers of paper saturated with the same glue.  The rings were then primed and painted white before masking for black paint.  The paints are all exterior grade.  Each ring was then sawn in half and labeled by site.  The rings are supported by 3/8" rebar posts driven into the ground to a specific height.  Usually the rebar needed to be driven into the ground 6-10 inches from the base of the tree to avoid roots, then bent to conform to the tree.  Steel rings of varying diameters were hand-formed in the studio then bent around the tree and wired to the rebar.  The foam rings were glued to the steel rings and rebar using silicone caulking.  Soft urethane foam spacers attached to the inside of the rings prevent the sculptures and rebar from knocking into the tree.  Nothing is attached to the tree.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Hello! You may have noticed me walking around downtown Colorado Springs, fervently pushing a red dolly emblazoned with a shiny yellow COPPeR logo. Depending on the occasion, said dolly may have been weighted down with PeakRadar Pages (your official, comprehensive guide to arts and culture in the Pikes Peak Region), house paint, or a root beer keg. WELL. I’m not just a mule for the arts; I have a name, you know! (It’s Sarah Wool. Cozy, right?) And I am working with COPPeR for the summer with the awesomely fancy title of Community Arts Development Specialist.
Sarah Wool, Summer Fellow. Here I am!
COPPeR and I found each other through Colorado College’s Public Interest Fellowship Program, or PIFP. Jeff Livesay, one of my favorite Sociology professors, designed PIFP to give students an opportunity to work with nonprofits in Colorado in summer or yearlong fellowships. Because I will still be in school as a senior next year (Sociology major, Art History minor), I was interested in the summer fellowships. COPPeR immediately caught my eye. It seemed like the perfect place to combine my interest in social action and enrichment with my love of culture and art.

Whether I was coloring on the walls, giving myself a spontaneous haircut, writing a newspaper that only my parents would read, or coloring my dog’s fur with washable markers, I’ve had a passion for creative endeavors since I was very small. (And I guess I’m still pretty small, because Christina told me last week that I’m the shortest person COPPeR has ever hired.)

It was in the second semester of my junior year, during a semester of studying art in Chicago, that I began to realize how vital the arts are to a city’s personality, energy, and sense of community. (Fun fact: I interviewed with COPPeR on Skype while I sat in the closet of my tiny Gold Coast apartment in a desperate attempt to get some privacy from my roommate.) As I made my way through Chicago’s famous art spaces—the Art Institute, Improv Olympic Theater, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Moth StorySLAM, among many others—I decided that I wanted to do all I could to make my own city of Colorado Springs a vibrant and attractive arts community. Lucky for me, COPPeR and PeakRadar are really into that goal too! Who would’ve thought?

I’ve been engaged in quite a few projects this summer, the most active of which was planning and executing a large mural on the wall of COPPeR’s office where people could paint messages or logos on an abstracted cityscape of the Springs. That should explain why I was wheeling paint along the sidewalk. When I’m not breaking a sweat to keep the arts community alive, I’m usually creating emails or surveys, planning events, and indexing local arts and cultural resources. I also organized and led a forum-type meeting called Coffee with COPPeR, where different cultural projects around the city presented their plans and progress to arts professionals and interested or curious community members.

One of my favorite things about this job is that it’s given me the opportunity to talk to a lot of different people about a lot of different things that are going on in this area. CC students very often forget that they are merely a small part of a much larger community; they rarely acknowledge that there is anything to do outside of the comfortable bubble of campus. Working with COPPeR and PeakRadar has shown me that there’s always, ALWAYS something to do. In fact, COPPeR employs [the wonderful] Brett Garman with the specific task of fighting boredom!

So there you have it: the story of how COPPeR and I met and came to be great boredom-fighting, arts-building friends. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On living in the Pikes Peak Region and loving the arts for more than a decade

A multitude of thanks to the many friends who attended my going away party at the Fine Arts Center on Wednesday, January 5. There were so many wonderful people in attendance and I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone. A few people have asked me to share my remarks from last night, so here they are.

This place is inextricably linked to creative experiences for me. My first visit to Colorado Springs was on a field trip with my high school orchestra, where I played Copland's Rodeo Suite on the Pikes Peak Center stage as part of the Cavalcade of Music. Later, after I had been accepted to Colorado College, where I would ultimately earn my degree, I saw a production of My Fair Lady at the Fine Arts Center Theater.
Since I moved here, I've played in orchestras, string quartets, bands, and acted in amateur dinner theater. I even started an underground music venue in my venue while at college, the High Life House. I've amassed a respectable collection of work by local artists. And all of those experiences added up to what ended up to be an extremely satisfying career in the arts; and ultimately, a job at COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region.

It has been my privilege and honor to serve as the first Executive Director for this organization. I have been so lucky to act as ambassador for the arts on behalf of all the amazing creative people who make this such a quality, vital place to live. To my friends and colleagues, the artists: You guys are AWESOME. The arts scene here is so rich, so vibrant and you all accomplish an astonishing volume of work with limited resources. My hat goes off to you.

I've been thinking a lot about what to say tonight. Having spent the last 13, very formative, years here, I have a lot to reflect upon. The past three years at COPPeR have been a period of exceptional growth. But in the past few weeks, as I have been packing up my belongings in preparation for my big move to California, I came across the document that is responsible for me being here in the first place.

The following is an excerpt from my college application essay that granted me entrance to Colorado College thirteen years ago. Keep in mind, if you will, that I was 17 years old when I wrote this. A little backstory - I was fortunate to have performed in the orchestra that inaugurated a brand-new Performing Arts Center with a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This essay is about that experience.

"After the standing ovations, I walked through the champagne reception and stood outside in the October air. I couldn't talk through my tears yet, and the conversations I'd overheard as I passed through the lobby contributed to my intense feeling of joy at having been able to contribute to something as so bold as fulfilling an artistic vision. This must have been what Beethoven felt as he was turned around on the conductor's podium to face the applause he could not hear: joy, triumph, pride, and above all a feeling of belonging to something with a greater power that that of beginnings or endings: a constancy of both the human spirit and the presence of beauty.

I have had many profound musical experiences, but this story seems to be the best illustration of why I want to pursue an education and career in the arts. Art has the ability to convey the entire spectrum of human emotion, whether it takes form in a sculpture, a poem, or a symphony. It guides us through our lives; it helps us overcome pain, and it enhances the joy of living. Art is a dynamic constant, a true manifestation of the human spirit-- there is always more to learn about it, since just like us, it is always changing."

I'm excited about the new adventure that faces me in California, but I'm also excited about the future for COPPeR. Christina McGrath will do a wonderful job moving the vision forward, and we've got great staff in place, like Brett Garman. I will miss working with you. Judging by the turnout tonight, there are so many people invested in the future of the Pikes Peak region. Say it loud and say it proud: We love the arts in the Pikes Peak region!

Monday, January 3, 2011

COPPeR Announces New Executive Director: Colorado Springs native Christina McGrath brings arts passion and organizational savvy

The Board of Directors of COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, is pleased to announce the appointment of Christina McGrath as Executive Director, starting January 18, 2011.

Christina comes to COPPeR from El Pomar Foundation, where after completing the Fellowship program she was invited to stay on and manage several programs including: the Anna Keesling Ackerman and Freda Hambrick Funds, The Empty Stocking Fund, and the foundation's compliance program. McGrath will replace Executive Director Bettina Swigger, who will step down in January after having served in that position for three years.

"COPPeR is at such an exciting stage in terms of growth and development," said Amanda Mountain, board chair of COPPeR. "The board feels that Christina is the perfect fit to build on all of the tremendous work Bettina has done, and to further expand beyond what even we can see in terms of possibilities for the organization."

Christina has lived in Colorado Springs for over 20 years and says that her passion for the arts started as a toddler when she was first sprinkled with "fairy dust" by Mary Mashburn, long beloved locally as the Fairy Godmother of the Arts. Christina grew up taking classes at the Bemis School of Art, and as a student at The Colorado Springs School, she was exposed to and participated in all aspects of fine arts thanks to their strong arts curriculum. Christina has a Bachelor's degree in Architecture and a Minor in Arts Management from Miami University. While at Miami, she played Baritone in the Marching and Athletic Bands and was a member of the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity. An active community volunteer, she serves on the board of Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity.

"At El Pomar I've had exposure to hundreds of outstanding nonprofits, I am excited to now be working for one," said McGrath. "The vitality of a city depends on its arts and cultural scene and having grown up in this community I know we have a lot to offer."

"Christina's many experiences and leadership opportunities here at El Pomar certainly have prepared her for this new responsibility. We are pleased to see her take on this next challenge and believe that COPPeR and our entire Colorado Springs community will benefit from her skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm," said William J. Hybl, chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation.

"I am delighted to know Christina will be taking the reigns at COPPeR," said Swigger. "This vibrant organization has an active, committed board of directors, excellent staff, wonderful support in our community, and a solid plan for growth and development. I look forward to working with Christina in the next few weeks to ensure a seamless leadership transition."

Members of the community are invited to meet Christina at an open house/art opening in the COPPeR creative space in the Plaza of the Rockies on Friday, February 4, 2011 from 6-9 p.m. This celebration will happen in tandem with the opening of the Breaking the Sound Barrier, Sonic Art 1860-2010 exhibition at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art next door.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Important News from COPPeR's Board Chair

It is with both sadness and a sense of excitement for her bright future ahead that I must share with you the news that COPPeR Executive Director Bettina Swigger has accepted a position as the executive director of Festival Mozaic, a music festival in San Luis Obispo on the California Central Coast. This is a tremendous opportunity for Bettina for which she was approached as a part of a competitive national search. This not only speaks highly of her personal and professional integrity and work ethic, but speaks to the culture of COPPeR where we strive to provide our staff the best opportunities possible to actualize their fullest potential.

COPPeR has grown leaps and bounds since its inception four years ago. We've established as THE go-to website for arts, culture and fun. We've worked together with artists and arts organizations, donors, businesspeople and local government and municipalities to leverage the role of arts and culture as a vital part of the fabric of community identity, and a significant economic driver. We've told the story of how arts and culture bring together people from various backgrounds and perspectives to celebrate what is truly important, our shared humanity.

All of this with Bettina Swigger as the leader of this vibrant, ever-evolving organization. She served first as a founding board member and then as the organization's first executive director for three years.

As Bettina transitions into the next phase of her career, COPPeR itself is poised to head into the future with many exciting things ahead. In 2011, COPPeR will be working with members of the community to implement parts of the Cultural Plan for the Pikes Peak Region; gather data for the next economic impact study on the arts and culture sector and its impact on the local economy; move forward with the board of directors on its new five-year strategic plan; publish the next edition of the COPPeR Pages; and more.

A party is planned to honor Bettina's legacy at COPPeR and to wish her bon voyage. Please save the date for January 5 and you can expect an invitation with all of the details shortly.

As we look to the future, the Board of Directors of COPPeR is seeking a new executive director who will help lead us into the next phase of our development. We are currently accepting applications and you will find the job posting on our website. Deadline for applications is December 3, 2010. Click here to see a complete job description.

Look to hear more from us as we embark on this exciting search for the next leader of this tremendous organization.

Thank you for your support of COPPeR, and of the entire arts community.

Amanda Mountain
COPPeR Board Chair