"Tree of Transformation" Rescue Falls Flat in Civic Center

Rescue attempts fall flat in Civic Center Park.EXPAND
Rescue attempts fall flat in Civic Center Park.
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Early on July 25, "Tree of Transformation," a public art piece that included a winterized, functioning antique piano, was torched in Civic Center Park.

Rangers from the Department of Parks and Recreation provided video footage to Denver Fire Department investigators and the Denver Police Department. That evening, DPD officers picked up 28-year-old Amanda Marie Failla, after they recognized her near Civic Center Park. She was arrested on investigation of second-degree arson; the investigation remains open as the DFD continues to examine information.

“Every day we work with our city partners to ensure we provide the best services to our community,” said Fire Chief Eric Tade in announcing the arrest. “We are happy our combined efforts allowed us to make an arrest in this fire.”

But sometimes even the best efforts go astray. On Friday afternoon, crews were trying to hoist the burned artwork onto a flatbed with a forklift when it dropped about ten feet to the ground.

The piece, created by Denver-based artists Nick Geurts and Ryan Elmendorf of Yetiweurks, had been installed in January as part of a new Civic Center Conservancy art program; it was designed to bring together art, music and light in a unique exhibit of engineering. "The piece is in the form of a tree, with a twisting steel-pipe trunk rooted in a full-size upright piano," according to the conservancy website. "When the keys are played, users will delight in the resulting harmony and illumination caused by steel drums attached to the 'branches' of the tree."

The installation was designed to be temporary and remain in the park only through June, but the conservancy had decided to leave it up a little longer, so that the flowers in the park wouldn't be destroyed during the removal, says Eric Lazzari, director of operations. Then came the arson, which "completely destroyed the piece," he says, adding that while calls have come in with offers of replacement pianos, the computer inside the work was fried.

Even so, a "Tree of Transformation" crowdfunding campaign was started on July 25 to pay for the piece's restoration; this will be the third time it's had to be repaired since it was installed.  As of late July 27, only $240 had been raised toward's the campaign's $5,000 goal, and after this latest challenge, the price tag could be much higher...if it can be repaired at all.

Meanwhile, the conservancy is already making plans for its next round of interactive pieces. "This is not the end of interactive art in the Civic Center," says Lazzari. "It's just a tragic way to end the first one."

Update: This story was updated on July 31 to include Eric Lazzari's comments.

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