At the heart of the RTD system, the Civic Center bus station, is a shiny mural that represents friendship, business deals, introductions and Douglas Kornfeld's inspiration for the piece: reunions. Kornfeld's "Welcome!" transforms as you get closer to the work, and he took a few minutes to talk about its creation and other pieces of public art.
Westword: Where are you from? Where do you reside now?
Douglas Kornfeld: I was born in Denver but now live and work in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
How did your collaboration with RTD come about?
This was my very first permanent public art commission, which I won in a competition.
How did you come up with the idea for this piece?
I wanted something that poetically related to a "journey" and that celebrated the diversity of the community without reference to race, religion or politics. The fifty-foot mural "Welcome!" depicts two hands reaching out to shake hands. Each of its 3,400 hand-made tiles has an individual figure glazed onto its surface. The mural symbolizes the moment when a passenger is transformed from an anonymous traveler, by a greeting, into a unique person at the beginning or end of a journey.
The background of the mural is made up of shiny gold tiles, each with the standard symbol for men or women. These symbolize the anonymity of a traveler. The two outstretched hands are made up of turquoise tiles, each with an individual figure. The turquoise tiles depict a wide variety of figures. Some of the figures are thin, heavy, tall, short, young and old and so on. Some have oversized large heads; others have tiny heads. These can be interpreted as different ways of thinking or perhaps ego. All of the figures symbolize the diversity of the Denver community.
What or who inspired this piece? And how? I was struck by watching people get off a plane or a bus and meeting someone who came to greet them. They literally shined and stood out from the crowd the moment they recognized their friend or loved one. The moment of greeting or reaching out to shake hand symbolizes this moment.
When people are on their daily journey and walk past your work, what do you hope they are thinking and feeling?
I hope the shimmering gold tiles catch their eye and make them want to investigate the myriad of figures portrayed in the mural. Perhaps as they look closer, they will see a figure or figures that might remind them of themselves or someone they know.
How do you feel about public transportation?
Public transportation is an integral part of my life. I take the subway every day to downtown Boston where I work in my studio. I drive so little that I often forget where I parked my car.
What is your favorite piece of public art?
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The Eiffel Tower. I love that when it was built it was almost universally hated. Even the artists of Paris gathered names on a petition that demanded the "eyesore" be removed from the Paris skyline. Today the tower is not just the symbol of Paris but the symbol of the entire country. Public art doesn't get any better than that. The pyramids of Egypt come in second place for the same reason. However, I like the Eiffel Tower the best because it was so hated when it was first built! To view more of Douglas Kornfeld's work visit his website.