Art News

Artists Can Honor the "Spirit of Wheat Ridge" — If They'll Do It for Free

Wheat Ridge High School students are recruiting artists to decorate traffic signal boxes.
Clean Slate Group
Wheat Ridge High School students are recruiting artists to decorate traffic signal boxes.
Updated: January 11, at 10:46 p.m. and January 18, 1:30 p.m.

Artists thrive within limitations — at least, that's one theory. A Wheat Ridge High School club's request for proposals from local artists on how to celebrate the "Spirit of Wheat Ridge" — by decorating local traffic signal boxes wrapped in graffiti-resistant vinyl — is riddled with limitations. For starters, artworks must meet the following criteria based on city zoning code:

· No bright red, orange or yellow colors
· No reflective colors
· No overly distracting images
· Must be family-friendly, socially acceptable artwork appropriate to the theme.
In short, the work should be muted in color and subject matter, lest drivers crash while distracted by bright-orange nudes. The project is a collaboration of students in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) group and the Wheat Ridge Department of Parks and Recreation, which will send the City Cultural Commission and Wheat Ridge City Council a slate of proposals for their ultimate approval.

This sort of urban beautification strategy, designed to ward off rebellious graffiti artists who view cities as canvases, is a trendy tactic that many municipalities have employed to ensure that residents have outlets for creative expression while art is channeled in "socially acceptable" ways.

Normally, the programs offer artists some sort of compensation to remind them that working within the constraints of the law has its rewards. In this case, artists will have to front the money for their own supplies and receive zero compensation — in the process giving students an unfortunate lesson in how governments can happily enjoy the fruits of public art as long as it's free.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn more about how the public art process works while providing the chance to highlight local artists,” pronounced Wheat Ridge High School art teacher Andrew Yutzy, who advises STEAM, in a statement announcing the program.

"The STEAM program is an unfunded program in the school and in the district," Yutzy wrote to Westword. "Students will have to raise the $1000 per box it will cost just to wrap them. We were hoping that (artists) would donate their artwork as a great way to gain public recognition. Get their name out there so to speak."

Artists willing to work for free can fill learn more about the project here. The deadline for submissions is March 1; five proposals will be given the green light.