June 15, 2010

We Need More Than Stickers: A Plea for Public Art in Boulder. ~ Matas Vilgalys

This mountainous, dynamic piece of public art is would not be found in Boulder.

It’s easy to hate on Boulder.

The wealthy bubble that’s home to CU Boulder, Naropa and an impressive and ever-expanding list of industry leaders including Google, CP+B and NISTTrustafarians, transients and yuppies alike all flock to these foothills to join in on the global reputation of cultural enrichment that so many consider to be a pillar of our idealistic community.

It is easy to point fingers at the numerous flaws and hypocrisies imbued throughout the massively wealthy population, but when it comes down to it, Boulder genuinely does walk the walk when it comes to leading the nation in green and healthy lifestyles.  As seen on it’s Wikipedia page, the city has been repeatedly listed as an ideal location to both live in and visit and I absolutely understand why.  However, one series of rankings do not hold the same authenticity as the rest— Boulder is not as artistic a community as everyone seems to think.

I do understand that Boulder is home to many folks who consider themselves artists, create work and maybe even show or share their work, but these creators all-too-often don’t carry over their artistry into the community in anything past the feathers in their hair.  As a student at CU, with one of my degrees coming from the Studio Arts department, I can assure that CU is attempting to make its mark as an artistic pillar for Boulder, although the program seems to lack a great deal of design principles.  I also know that Naropa University also prides itself on a booming artistic curriculum, but these efforts need to extend beyond the studios and homes of these students.

Boulder is fortunate in many ways, both by privilege and art, and is home to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, the Communikey Festival, several acclaimed film festivals and hosts hundreds of renowned musical acts every year at one of several local venues.  To be certain, I can see art throughout Boulder, in just about every day but the traditional sense: the streets are bare.

Where’s the graffiti? Where’s the public art? Why is the sculpture garden by the library full of bland works that can’t compare to the colorful transitory population who sleep in the nearby woods?  I know Boulder is smaller than most artistically recognized cities, but I can find no explanation for the lack of public displays or efforts to adorn our city’s streets with anything more than snowboarding stickers or well-weathered Obama stencils, especially when I know we can do more.  With so many revolutionary industry dynamos in our community, couldn’t we take some of that creative, transformative spirit into the external and mental spaces within our scenic streets?

Matas Vilgalys is a senior at CU Boulder pursuing double degrees in Art and Advertising.  He likes cheese, working on projects, loving the mountains, running, and talking about North Carolina, the greatest state in the union and coincidentally where he is from.

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