Art News

Denver Offers $40,000 for Art at an Emergency Homeless Shelter

Nigel Penhale created this Denver Public Art-commissioned mural along the Cherry Creek Trail.
Nigel Penhale created this Denver Public Art-commissioned mural along the Cherry Creek Trail. Denver Public Art / Nigel Penhale
The City and County of Denver has put out a call for qualifications for three new Denver Public Art commissions. In the mix, the city is offering $40,000 for an artist or arts group to create work at a newly renovated Emergency Homeless Shelter at 4330 East 48th Avenue.

Yes, $40,000.

The mandate: Create comforting work that gives people at the shelter a sense of peace, relaxation and hope. Better yet, involve the people experiencing homelessness in the process of making art.

"The successful artist or artist team will be asked to consider the challenges of the shelter guests who are experiencing homelessness and approach this project with empathy for them," the announcement from Denver Public Art explains. "The artwork should provide an 'oasis' of comfort for guests, softening the space, and providing peace, relaxation and hope. Engagement with shelter guests through workshops or other means of participation is welcomed during the development of the artwork."

An oasis?

Perhaps an artist should propose divvying up the $40,000 to the residents, truly offering them a bit of peace, relaxation and hope. Translation: a couple of months' rent in a place far removed from an emergency shelter.

Another $40,000 will be given to an artist or team of artists creating work at a newly constructed half-mile portion of the High Line Canal Trail, near the hazardous intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Hampden Avenue.

"The selection panel seeks artwork that speaks to the community, the history of the area and the legacy of the High Line Canal with the potential for motion and sound art," the announcement states. "The commission amount is $40,000 USD."

Motion and sound art on the High Line Canal Trail sounds fascinating and loud and bright, the kind of work that would prevent any person experiencing homelessness from even thinking about settling down in that area.

Denver Public Art is also proposing a site-specific public artwork at the Hadley Branch of the Denver Public Library, at 1890 South Grove Street.

"The Hadley Library art selection panel requests that the selected artist or artist team create their project utilizing the ideaLAB resources and equipment," according to the announcement. IdeaLabs are free community spaces where library customers can make things.

"Do you need to produce videos, create games, make music, or learn about electronics?" the library's website asks. "We aim to provide the tools and resources you need to make your projects happen."

click to enlarge IdeaLABS encourages all ages to explore various mediums, from tech to tools. - KELSEY YANDURA
IdeaLABS encourages all ages to explore various mediums, from tech to tools.
Kelsey Yandura
The artists will be encouraged to use the library space, resources and programming to involve the community in the work. In exchange for a winning proposal, the artist will get a $10,000 commission.

“These three public art opportunities underscore Denver’s commitment to serving its residents, from education to recreation to safety,” says Michael Chavez, manager of Denver Public Art.

The money for these projects comes from the City of Denver program requiring that 1 percent of public improvement project budgets be used to fund public art. Since the city adopted that program in 1988, more than $40 million has gone to such projects – making Denver Public Art one of the biggest revenue streams for local artists.

Colorado artists can apply at through April 15.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris