A local artist quietly courts controversy at Colfax and Federal
Local street artist agent m[i]le[s] likes to court controversy, but in a subtly subversive way. In fact, you might not even notice that his latest public project, a sign that went up Monday morning near the intersection of Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue, is unsanctioned — and that's one of the points. "It's intended to look legit," he says. "I want to create a moment where the people, probably city workers, have to call someone to ask, and that person in the city's planning department asks themselves, 'What is this, why is it here? What is the motivation of someone outside of our organization to have an interest in this?'"
The project, called "This Could Be Here," is a freestanding seven-foot placard that looks like any other real-estate development sign. The wording on it is taken from one of the city's draft reports on the potential for redeveloping the intersection around Federal and Colfax in order to make it more pedestrian-friendly. It reads:
"12 acres of mixed use development potential!
"Create a celebrated, connected, innovative and healthy west Denver gateway neighborhood!"
"Stunning views adjacent to w line lightrail!"
The sign includes a picture of a hypothetical apartment building, the phone number for the city's zoning administrator, a QR Code that links to the city's draft plan for the intersection, and a little box with take-away information on that plan. "This is something the city is already advocating for itself," but is probably on the bottom of its list of priorities, agent m[i]le[s] explains. "When you look at the plans and think about the pace of development, it's something that would take years to manifest even in the best of times...so I am taking it upon myself as a resident of that area to advertise a position of the city's planning and development board.
"In a pro bono capacity," he adds with a laugh.
The intersection, which totals 29 acres, is one of many obstacles to development in the area, since it cuts off the surrounding neighborhoods from the rest of the city. Sports Authority Field, train tracks and the South Platte River are also impediments. So getting rid of the cloverleaf on- and off-ramps there and putting the intersection at grade, surrounded by retail or housing, could help stitch things together. "I hope that ["This Could Be Here"] will make people aware of the misuse of that space and what the potential is...and I'd love it if some developer saw it and thought it was a real sign and started asking questions with the city," the artist says.
And medium is definitely part of the message. "I'm an artist by training and profession, but applying that label here might detract from the statement.... It's just funnier for me personally to use the ethics of graffiti to advocate for a city-endorsed policy. The veneer isn't subversive, but the act is."
Scene and herd: Artist John Cuneo left Denver decades ago, but the images he did for Westword still linger. And the illustration of embattled New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner he did for the cover of this week's New Yorker (left) is going to stick with the country for a long time, even if the focus of the piece does not. "With a topic like Anthony Weiner, how can you find anything broad or funny that he hasn't already personally breached?" asks Cuneo. "Free association made me think of the Empire State Building, and then King Kong, the iconic image of him straddling it. And then Weiner sexting, his head tilted and looking a certain way — I just stumbled upon the image as I was sketching. But all I could think about while working on this piece was, 'Will Weiner still be in the race by the time it runs?'"
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