A new Clark Richert sculpture, “Quadrivium,” aims to light up Denver with hope.
The fourteen-foot aluminum triacontahedron structure with thirty rhombi has been installed at 127 East 20th Avenue, across from Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church and at the southernmost point of the Welton Corridor in Five Points, on the property of Bella Vista Mexican restaurant. The piece is currently covered with a tarp and will be unveiled at an Independence Eve celebration starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 3.
Amy Harmon, a real estate broker and the mastermind behind the project’s installation, hopes the sculpture will unite the Five Points community and create a space for discussions about neighborhood connectivity.
The piece is non-intrusive, Harmon notes, though it will bring life to the location, particularly at night. She wants to transform the landscape into an area for people to gather, where neighboring organizations can host events from performances to lemonade stands.
The name “Quadrivium” is a nod to a medieval university curriculum based on geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy. Harmon says that tradition invites people to participate, bring their ideas, think about the future and experiment.
“The whole idea behind the geometry — originality, and what it offers in terms of considering different perspectives — today it’s more relevant than I ever could have imagined,” she says. “It gives a way to talk about things in a more expanded way.”
Harmon acknowledges that there have been concerns from the neighborhood. The piece was initially scheduled to be unveiled on June 3, but with protests against police violence sweeping the city, some community leaders suggested that the launch be pushed back. While most have expressed enthusiasm about her aspirations for starting conversations, others have pointed out that the sculpture, which is abstract and rooted in obscure geometry, might not bring about the desired dialogue. But Harmon says that even if the message is subtle, she’s optimistic that it will give people a chance to pause, reflect and discuss the future of the community.
Over a 25-year career in real estate, Harmon has led many large-scale planning efforts in Five Points, and says she works hard to build strong relationships, using art as a way to bring the community together. One of her signature projects was the conversion of Triangle Park at 2300 Lawrence Street, where people experiencing homelessness used to camp. Harmon turned what she describes as a “heroin den” into an urban garden. Critics slammed the project for displacing people, and proponents championed it for beautifying the city.
Most recently, Harmon proposed an ambitious five-acre project in the middle of five neighborhoods that join together: Curtis Park, Uptown, Downtown, Arapahoe Square and Ballpark. While that effort fell apart, she still wanted to do something with the land. “We had so many layers of history here,” she says. “I wanted to be a good neighbor.”
Though “Quadrivium” is now installed on the Bella Vista property, Harmon’s ultimate plan is to move it to the vacant traffic triangle nearby. She explains that after Saint John’s Episcopal Church burned down in 1908, the City Beautiful Movement shifted Denver’s grid 45 degrees, which is why there are so many triangle-shaped spaces among Denver streets. “Ironically, this is a sculpture of triangles,” she says. “Triangles are interesting, but in Denver, they’re orphan remnants.”
Artist Richert has long been obsessed with geometric shapes. His brothers and his father were all mathematicians. He studied a lot of math in high school, he says, but in college he mostly enrolled in art classes. Richert’s ideas of dimensionality were inspired by R. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. He became aware of Fuller’s work in high school, and it has greatly influenced his career.
After attending college at the University of Kansas and the University of Colorado in the ’60s and ’70s, Richert co-founded the artist community known as Drop City, on a property in southern Colorado near Trinidad. “There we built our community out of car steel. And we built domes. We lived in domes. And the dome I lived in for three years cost $14 to build,” he recalls with a laugh. “And it was comfortable. My life was happy.”
The name Drop City doesn’t come from “dropping out” or “dropping acid,” as the hippie-artist image might suggest, but rather from Richert’s time at the University of Kansas. He and his friends had rented a loft there, and they would paint rocks and drop them down to the pavement from above. “We were amazed at people’s reactions to dropping these rocks. And so we started dropping more and more things. The biggest thing we ever dropped was a piano,” he says.
He and the fourteen other artists who legally owned the land in Colorado called themselves the “droppers.” Richert says that sometimes there were as many as forty people on the property. Famous people came, and they often had big events and celebrations.
In the years since, Richert has established himself as one of the state’s most celebrated artists. Harmon has known him for fifteen years. “The more you get to know Clark, the more you love Clark,” she says. “His whole life has been about making art an everyday part of life. It’s really beautiful.”
Richert and Harmon had talked about putting geodesic domes on the tops of Harmon’s buildings for years. And while “Quadrivium” is installed on the ground outside of a restaurant, their dream of creating a dome has finally become a reality.
“You can see it from everywhere,” Harmon says. “It is a light from a distance. It almost reinforces this idea that we are all connected.”
Richert has been deliberate about the patterns of light on each individual rhombus of the piece. At night the LED bulbs move in and out, alternating between different types of movement. The light changes the way that the triacontahedron structure is perceived.
“For people who are into the higher dimensions, the triacontahedron is considered a shadow or projection of the sixth dimension,” Richert notes.
Richert and Harmon hope that the spherical manifestation of what was started at Drop City in the ’60s will help create a space for discussion about community engagement, pulling in local organizations and partners.
“Art transcends time,” Harmon says. “We get to have some breakthrough moments with things that are larger than we are. Art is something we can all share, no matter how old you are, no matter what walk of life you’re on.”
“Quadrivium” will be unveiled at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 3, at 127 East 20th Avenue,
followed by an installation celebration that includes a virtual performance by the Colorado Symphony and Cleo Parker Robinson.
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