Art News

Michael Singer Wants His Garden to Keep Growing at Denver Airport

"Interior Garden," as seen on creator Michael Singer's site.
"Interior Garden," as seen on creator Michael Singer's site.
Michael Singer knows all about how air travel has changed; he’s frequently jetting around the world to discuss his work, including another possible commission in Denver. We caught up with him on a recent visit to the Mile High City to talk about his “Interior Garden” at Denver International Airport, the airport's interest in removing it, and the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs voting against the deaccession request.

Westword: What has the response been to “Interior Garden” over the past two decades?

click to enlarge Michael Singer. - MICHAELSINGER.COM
Michael Singer.
Michael Singer: I receive e-mails all the time about this project, as do my colleagues. Everybody is delighted by the project, especially when they just happen to find it during their travels. Just a few months ago, someone contacted my studio about donating a palm tree to the project. One of my favorite e-mails came from an associate professor of art at the American University in Cairo, Marrin Robinson, which states: “As someone who frequently travels internationally, I can assure you that this sculpture and garden is one of the most humanizing aspects of any airport I have traveled through...a piece that distinguishes your airport from any other and raises Colorado’s image in terms of the Arts.”

About five years ago, a book on my work, The Re-Enchantment of Nature and Urban Space — Michael Singer Projects in Art, Design and Environmental Regeneration, was published in Denmark; the Denver airport’s “Garden” is on the cover of this book, with the McDonald’s food court in the background. This book is also the catalogue for two one-person shows I had in Denmark, one at the Utzon Center in Aalborg and the other at the Danish Architectural Center in Copenhagen.

How did you feel when you heard that the airport was going to request that “Interior Garden” be deaccessioned?

I was surprised. I know there are some maintenance challenges, and I am certain they can be resolved with a collaborative effort. I had no idea that there was a plan for deaccession until I received a formal letter from the airport informing me of the request and the process…. I wrote several letters to the Commission on Cultural Affairs expressing my belief that there are many ways of addressing the airport’s issues while keeping and enhancing the garden. I was very pleased to hear the commission voted fifteen to three to decline the request for deaccession. “Garden” is a very special piece, and it’s reassuring to know that the commission values this piece as much as I do.

Are you willing to collaborate with the airport to deal with the maintenance issues, perhaps making some modifications that would alleviate concerns about leaks? Or replacing tropical plants with xeriscaping?

Absolutely. In my letters to the airport and the Commission on Cultural Affairs, I suggested several ways the garden can be restored and enhanced. I am confident we can all work together on some creative solutions to the airport’s concerns, and I look forward to collaborating with the airport staff.

Given the airport’s deaccession request, do you have concerns about accepting another Denver commission?

Not at all. The Denver Public Art Program has a very capable and professional team; they recognize that the airport matter is completely separate from any new commissions.

Keep reading for more from Denver International Airport.

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Contact: Patricia Calhoun