Civic Center Park sits between the State Capitol, the City and County Building, the Denver Public Library Central Branchand the central business district. A Burning Man-inspired art piece, "The Tree of Transformation," was installed in the park Thursday, January 18, as part of ongoing efforts to deepen the connection between the community and public space.
“[Civic Center Park] is really where the community comes together,” says Eric Lazzari, director of programming and events for the Civic Center Conservancy. “It’s a place where the community celebrates, as evidenced by the Broncos' Super Bowl rally a few years ago. ... It’s a place where the community comes to protest and mourn, as well. It has always been, since the early 1900s, an important gathering spot.”
It's also been the site of drug dealing, a space where people experiencing homelessness gather to rest during the day (when they're not being "moved along" by police), and the area where Occupy Denver set up a 24/7 camp protesting economic injustice during the Obama era. Sandwiched between city and state government buildings, the park has served as a gathering point for both celebrations and a constant reminder to lawmakers that many people in the city go unserved.
The Tree of Transformation was created by local artists Nick Geurts and Ryan Elmendorf of Yetiweurks. Their work has appeared at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, the Denver Performing Arts Complex and over various years at Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
The installation in Civic Center Park is twenty feet tall and interactive. People can press piano-like keys on the tree, which activates steel pans from Trinidad and Tobago, creating a unique sound.
According to their artist statement, Geurts and Elmendorf's intention for the piece is “to encourage collaboration between strangers and inspire us to rediscover our sense of childlike wonder.”
The Tree of Transformation’s temporary home is in the middle of the park, on the walkway between the Voorhies Memorial and the Greek Theater. The installation will be on display until April 15.
Lazzari hopes the piece will not only attract more people to the park year-round, but also inspire the local creative community to participate in the Civic Center Art in the Park program.
“From a larger perspective, by doing this project now, our hope is it inspires the creative community in town to start to see, ‘What can I do in Civic Center? How can I help to transform the space?’” Lazzari explains. “It gives that different lens.”
The Conservancy’s other efforts, like Civic Center Eats and Civic Center Moves, have shifted the way people interact with the park – and the types of people who use the space.
“Our goal with Civic Center is to make it a year-round destination,” Lazzari says. “And give people a reason, whether it’s a piece of art to see, whether it’s a lunch to buy, whether it’s an opportunity to go work out — they have a reason for most of the year to come into Civic Center.”