Lakewood and West Colfax are experiencing a much needed revival after many years of hard work to bring it back to the “Gateway of the Rockies” days. A major player in that revitalization is the 40 West Arts District, one of 18 Colorado Creative Industry Certified Arts Districts. At the beginning of this month, 40 West launched its pet project, the 40 West ArtLine — a walkable, bikeable four-mile course with art installations all along the way that uses Mountair, Aviation and Walker Branch parks as starting and ending points. It’s easy to find the route because there’s a lime green line painted on the ground the whole way.
For May and June, 70 pieces of art have been or will be completed — a sizeable task that many artists have jumped at the opportunity to help with. Three pivotal sculptures inhabit the three Lakewood parks the ArtLine connects, all created by Drew J. Gregory and Zak Ostrowski with PUNCH. Other artworks curated for the ArtLine include ground murals, fence art and story totems — but that’s not where the art stops. 40 West Arts District has invested time and money for the last seven years into cultivating public art in the surrounding neighborhoods, plus there’s a healthy amount of street art and graffiti that came before or has appeared since and is not in relation to 40 West.
Though the best way to experience the ArtLine is by traversing it yourself, we decided to check it out and make note of which artists and installations are finished or in progress. Read on for our descriptions and then hop on your bike, your skateboard, your rollerblades, or just put on some good walking shoes and head over to Lakewood for an artistic break from your usual mundane workout routine. You can also take the W Line on the RTD Light Rail for a direct connection to the line from anywhere in Denver.
Using a $100,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts, the artist team, of previously mentioned Gregory and Ostrowski, created three sculptures that originate from one point of inspiration — the Stegosaurus, Colorado’s state dinosaur. According to the artists, they wanted to make sculptures that are “interactive, memorable and playful.” Each one produces shadows differently, using basic shapes like triangles or vertical lines. And each one also pays tribute to the discovery and excavation of dinosaur fossils — something Gregory and Ostrowski wanted to do because the original Stegosaurus was discovered just north of Morrison in 1877.
Unearthed Plates (pictured above) rests in the middle of Aviation Park — between Teller and Reed Streets — and is the most obvious representation of the famed dinosaur. Transitioning from a forest green to a sky blue, the colors both blend into their surroundings and complement them. Dermal Plate Gateway (pictured above as well) presents a more abstract version of the iconic kit-shaped Stegosaurus spine and a more vibrant shade of blue and green. It does, in fact, provide a gateway to Mountair Park. The final sculpture, STEGOSKEL (not pictured above) sits on either side of a pathway in the middle of Walker Branch Park. The two sides are symmetrical and resemble industrial versions of a prehistoric ribcage — something to make you feel small at the same time you feel protected, passing beneath it.
A major part of the ArtLine that sets it apart from say, a walk through a park with sculptures, are the ground murals. So far, the murals are either interactive — and some are even games similar to hopscotch — or simply beautiful. Katy Casper is mostly responsible for the interactive ones, with help from Goretti Martinez on one. Casper’s sidewalk paintings rely on eye-popping colors and clean lines to grab passers-by attention. She keeps the attention for a while longer by providing clever puzzles that require walking across it in a particular way. Be warned, on that note, that if you are biking or riding something, the interactive part of the murals will pass you by.
On the other hand, the more pictorial ground murals are worth a glance at a distance, while riding over them or in close inspected detail. There is the mural in front of Pirate Contemporary Art Gallery, made of different shades of blue that swirl around each other — it’s an iconic style that Anna Charney is making her own here in Denver with murals popping up in nearly every neighborhood. Then, Sandra Fettingis is working on a piece that features triangles and a similar color scheme as two of the dinosaur sculptures, near the W Line between Depew and Harlan Streets. Finally, Yulia Avgustinovich painted two murals bursting with warm colors that remind us of Colorado days — both in the summer and fall.
More sidewalk paintings will be created as the evolution of the ArtLine continues, and one day, as executive director Liz Black of 40 West Arts said, “our hopes are that it will be an ever-evolving and changing exhibition, continuing to grow and expand and in five years you will be able to find a piece of art along every foot of the way.”
It won’t do you any good to keep your eyes on the sidewalk because the ArtLine also includes fence art punctuated along the route. From neon cardboard cutouts to crochet rainbows, the fence designs add much-appreciated diversity to the whole experience. Lauren Culbreth is responsible for the shimmery squares that border a long portion of the line south of Colfax Avenue, a sight to behold when it’s windy, or at sunset. NEXT Gallery coordinated a fence installation with some of their resident artists along 16th Street, including a row of enlarged photographed heads that peek out at you as you travel by. Pirate Contemporary Art Gallery created a row of active cardboard cutouts in neon hues across from NEXT Gallery’s work. Finally, Ladies Fancywork Society is still working on their contribution that spans a few blocks next to Casa Bonita and Lamar Square Plaza.
Other art you’ll see along the way…
There are more pieces of artwork than can be described in this article. And, there’s more coming — as you’ll see from signposts that read “Watch this space. Art coming soon.” Some of the other artists to keep on the lookout for are Carlos Fresquez, Bobby Magee Lopez, Timothy Flood and Will Strathmann. From murals on buildings and garage bays to yarnbombs in Aviation Park (an activity that the community helped with) to interactive sculptures that use lights or sound, the route of the ArtLine provides a truly art-filled hour or two — depending on your pace.