The Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver has announced that well-known and highly regarded Denver artist Lawrence Argent (pictured in a photo courtesy of the artist) has been chosen to design what is to be called the Holocaust Memorial Learning and Social Action Site. The project will cost $750,000, with the CJS’s Holocaust Awareness Institute charged with mounting the capitol campaign.
The plaza will be erected on the DU campus near the intersection of University Boulevard and Evans Avenue between the Penrose Library and Margery Reed Hall. Argent’s design will incorporate the ruins of the Buchtel Chapel, a 1910 building that was almost completely destroyed in a fire, save for one bell tower, back in 1983.
Argent is a sculptor and DU art professor who creates three-dimensional works that are at once credibly contemporary and crowd pleasing. This combination of seemingly antithetical attributes is impossible for most artists to achieve, yet Argent has done it again and again. There’s the giant tuft of grass, "Virere," that’s sprouted in the median of South Broadway in Englewood. Then there’s "Ghost Trolley," a translucent facsimile of a flattened trolley car in old downtown Aurora. But surely his greatest -- and most popular -- accomplishment is "I See What You Mean," the big blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center downtown.
Sarah Pessin, the CJS’s director and the Emil and Eva Hecht chair in Judaic Studies, is working closely with Argent on the project. A guiding principle of the design is to incorporate the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, the idea of doing acts that repair the world.
In preparation for the design, Argent recently traveled to sites related to the Holocaust in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as taking a trip to Israel. He has said that his experiences in Jerusalem, more than anywhere else, "brought everything together for me."
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A preliminary design for the Holocaust Memorial Learning and Social Action Site was submitted last week, with a final design set to be finished at the end of August. Construction could begin as early as this fall, depending on whether or not fund-raisers reach their goal. -- Michael Paglia