In 2017, 260 trees were slated to be removed from City Park Golf Course, to make way for a drainage project. Neighbors griped that losing the historic trees would cause an eyesore. In a city plagued by ozone alerts all summer long, environmentalists were furious that so many old trees, which helped purify the air, were being chopped down. Artist and activists attempted to intervene, to no avail.
By the end of the year, the trees were gone.
But creativity is sprouting from these trees. Denver artist Darrell Anderson, who lives near the park, has started the Art of Community, a project that will use wood from the downed trees and work with youth to turn it into art.
The project, a collaboration with Cherry Arts, the nonprofit that runs the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and Saunders Construction, the contractor hired to rebuild the golf course, will work with roughly a dozen nearby schools, where students ranging from preschoolers to twelfth-graders will create projects from the salvaged wood and ultimately compete in a juried exhibition. Winners will display their works in the golf course clubhouse when it reopens.
Anderson, a boardmember of Cherry Arts, wants to see a broader swath of the community attend the Cherry Creek Arts Festival — including students participating in the Art of Community, who will compete for a prize that will be handed out at the annual event. He's raising $30,000 through a GoFundMe page to pay for art supplies and other expenses.
Like many, Anderson worries that people living in the neighborhoods surrounding City Park are struggling with big changes in the city, from predatory fix-and-flippers trying to buy their houses to city brass redesigning the golf course.
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“This project is not only healing for me, but for my community, because most of the folks who were against the trees coming down and the park being revamped were concerned," Anderson recalls. "The best way to engage was to make an everlasting life for the trees and using our youth to make that happen.'”
The project is also a way to bring art into Denver schools that have little access to it, where students rarely have the chance to collaborate with professional artists.
“Art is a precious thing, and everyone should have it in their life, whether it’s dancing, singing, theater or art shows," Anderson says. "It’s important to have that flavor of life in order to accomplish beautiful things.”
To find out more about the Art of Community, go to the gofundme page.