Since 2014, Denver Arts & Venues has awarded more than $240,000 in grants to create “inspired, collaborative and community-driven placemaking projects that activate city-owned, outdoor public spaces and enhance the quality of life in the City of Denver’s neighborhoods.” These grants, coined P.S. You Are Here (PSYAH) are a result of a partnership between the city’s Budget and Management Office and Denver Arts & Venues through capital improvement funding and as part of the IMAGINE 2020 initiative. All the projects funded with this grant money create a temporary installation for a public space because one of the main goals of PSYAH is to enrich the lives of all Denver residents. The 2017-18 recipients were announced last week, with $65,500 altogether being awarded to eight groups.
With the hopes of increasing public safety, rejuvenating public spaces, inspiring innovating thinking and fostering community interaction, the eight projects cover a big footprint across Denver. From South Yuma to Commons Park and east along Colfax Avenue, these projects will be highly visible and sometimes interactive, to encourage even more engagement with the public. The 2017-18 recipients are described below.
Birdseed Collective: With lead artist Anthony Garcia Sr., over 20 artists will paint dumpsters in the Columbine Denver Housing Authority Development, asking community members to contribute to the design and implementation of the art. Birdseed Collective has been awarded a PSYAH grant every year it’s been available.
Balfour at Riverfront Park: three large archways will be installed in Commons Park, made with Colorado beetle kill wood and with painted panels depicting the geologic evolution of the South Platte basin. People will be able to walk under and around these arches, learning about the epochs and the environmental history of the area.
Broadway Partnership: multiple L.E.D light displays will be created for the Broadway corridor between I-25 and Second Avenue. Local artists, Knomad Colab, will create these light installations, intentionally illuminating areas that have been underused and hopefully creating a setting and ambiance that is not only safer but also inspires those who walk by it.
Walk Denver: on various sites along Colfax Avenue, Walk Denver will work together with community members who have been impacted by traffic deaths, advocacy groups and artists to instigate dialogue about the safety of pedestrians in Denver. Well-known Denver street artist Pat Milbery will paint a large-scale mural to envision the goals of Vision Zero and will work with East High School students to create stencils and street signs for areas that community members feel need improvement.
NINE dot ARTS: a massive city-wide installation and party coined “Happy City” will come to Denver in late May, with UK artist Stuart Semple. Some of the funding is coming from this PSYAH grant, though the entire installation is supported by a handful of Denver organizations. “Happy City” will include a deluge of smiley faced clouds, the world’s largest disco ball, an outdoor art rave and a few small projects in areas that usually don’t see public art commissions.
RedLine Art Center: with the construction of a model tiny home, RedLine and their collaborators hope to share the possibilities of using tiny homes to help with the homelessness crisis in Denver and to showcase how these little structures can be something to be proud of rather than fear. Not only will they build a model home to help “humanize” the occupants, they will also provide educational programming from advocacy groups and art and writing from people experiencing homelessness.
South Pearl Street Association: the installation of three to five “fairy doors” in the South Pearl Street area will activate the already highly-trafficked area, but will incorporate curiosity and playfulness in areas like alleyways, entryways or parking lots. These “fairy doors” will be designed by local artists, with an interactive map to help discover them as they are built. Members of the community will be encouraged to make their own “fairy doors” once the project is underway.
Thomas Jefferson High School: At the eastbound RTD bus shelter at Ivanhoe Street and Hampden Avenue a mural will be installed that was painted on ceramic tiles by southeast Denver community members, students at City Council District 4 and art teacher Timothy Biermann during the South by Southeast District 4 community festival in August 2017. This bus stop serves many Thomas Jefferson High School students and will be an eye-catching piece of art for commuters along that stretch of Hampden.
How to Apply for Future Grants
In order to apply for a PSYAH grant, applicants must be one of the following: Registered Neighborhood Association (RNO) or neighborhood-based group, a Business Improvement District, a Maintenance District, a Business Association or Chamber of Commerce, an art or creative district or a business or placed-based organization, profit or nonprofit. Some of the recipients in the past have included Santa Fe Business Improvement District, Art Students League of Denver and West Colfax Association of Neighbors, to name a few.
IMAGINE 2020 was launched in 2013, as Denver’s first cultural initiative since 1989, under the leadership of the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs. Basically, the initiative aims to increase art, culture and creativity in everyday life for the residents and visitors of the city. Their vision includes showcasing and supporting local talent, maintaining accessibility to artistic programs and opportunities and understanding the role creative output has in the city’s economic vitality. “As we reevaluate Denver’s cultural landscape at the midway point of IMAGINE 2020, we continue to hear people express the desire for more art in their neighborhoods,” said Arts & Venues Deputy Director Ginger White. “A program like P.S. You Are Here which generates surprising neighborhood pop-up art experiences is one way we are actively bringing art to our public spaces.”
For more information about each of the 2017-18 PSYAH grant recipients, visit this website.