The Piece of the Rock awards that Red Rocks performers receive are not made from rock that actually comes from the famed amphitheater.
Although the artist who creates the awards uses pieces of the red flagstone that stretches along the Front Range, taking rock from Red Rocks would violate the rules of the park, which is owned by the City of Denver as a Denver Mountain Park. Instead, since he started making the awards in 1998, John Haertling has used either recycled flagstone or rock mined from Lyons.
Each year he designs a new award for that summer's season of music, working with two team members to fit in the creation of the awards along with their other commissions. In the past, Haertling has produced awards for the Olympic committee and world leaders; he says he most enjoys teaming up with nonprofits and public agencies, including the one that manages Red Rocks.
Last year the artist's shop, Haertling Awards, made 1,250 pieces for Red Rocks artists and team members — a steep increase from the 150 awards made the year the program started. Still, in the twenty-plus years Heartling has created these awards, thousands of musicians have carried home a piece of Colorado.
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This year, the red flagstone in the awards is set off by steel, an innovation for Haertling. “I use this particular job to explore different ideas and different techniques,” he says.
Tad Bowman, the city's venue director for Red Rocks, thinks the awards further a connection between artists and the amphitheater. “It helps to solidify that we appreciate the artists being here,” he says.
Billie Eilish, the youngest Red Rocks headliner at seventeen, has already received her commemorative stone; Diana Ross, who is setting the record for the longest time between Red Rocks performances (five decades), will take home Haertling’s award when she plays later this summer.
“It’s been a really exciting job to have these pieces go in these people’s hands, [artists] who have done so much in their careers,” Haertling says.