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Elk art project makes progress

Grassroots effort wants to install sculpture in roundabout


Although they come from a variety of career backgrounds, one Golden neighborhood group has one thing in common — they love their residential elk herd.

In fact, the neighbors enjoy watching the herd so much that it became the inspiration behind a grassroots effort to install a statue on the roundabout at Kimball Avenue and Heritage Road.

“We have a real fondness for the elk herd that visits our neighborhood on a regular basis,” said Golden resident Preston Driggers. “This statue will honor our local wildlife.”

Back in May 2015, the City of Golden hosted a community information meeting about a road project to add roundabouts on Heritage Road between Sixth Avenue and Highway 40. At the meeting, a city councilor informally mentioned that placing a public art piece on the largest of the three roundabouts — the Kimball Avenue intersection — might be worth looking into, Driggers said.

Thus, the Art With Elk in Golden (AWEGO) group was formed. AWEGO is a resident group run by volunteers that receives tax exemption benefits through its fiscal sponsorship from the Golden Civic Foundation.

Its purpose is to fundraise for a public art piece to be placed at Kimball Avenue and Heritage Road, matching funds that the city has pledged.

Statue embodies residents’ values

AWEGO “is setting precedent for the community to get involved with choosing what goes in their neighborhood,” Driggers said. “The hope is that we’re paving a path for other neighborhoods to follow.”

AWEGO started making oral presentations to the city’s Public Art Commission in 2015, and eventually a subcommittee was formed, consisting of two city art commissioners and four AWEGO neighbors.

During its July 7 meeting last year, the Public Art Commission decided to co-fund the project and will contribute $27,500 if the community can match the amount. So far, AWEGO has raised $8,000.

A number of factors were considered when choosing what form the public art would take, Driggers said. But, a few stood out — AWEGO wanted the piece to be original, to model Golden values and to be sculpted by a Colorado artist.

“All of us have elk in our yards all the time,” said Kate Rodd, an AWEGO volunteer. “This statue will be representative of the ideals that Golden holds near and dear — especially in our neighborhood.”

These ideals, she said, include family, community and preservation of nature.

What was decided on was a mother elk and two calves. Titled “Protecting the Future,” the statue will be a life-sized bronze elevated on large slabs of Colorado buff rock surrounded by football-sized quarry rocks and ornamental grasses. Each one of the elk will face an entrance to the roundabout.

Artist lives near Lyons

The Public Art Commission approved sculptor Christine Knapp — an experienced wildlife artist and signature member of the Society of Animal Artists — as the artist in July 2016.

“Everything I do is figurative, meaning realistic,” Knapp said. “I do people, too, but animals are where my love is.”

Knapp especially enjoys sculpting animals in a natural pose and connecting them with human emotions, she said. Knapp, who has an interest in conservation, was able to relate to AWEGO’s requests, she said, as she also has a resident elk herd that often visits her mountain home near Lyons.

“Elk are indigenous to Colorado,” Knapp said. “My hope is that it (the statue) will remind people that this is what it’s all about — humans and nature cohabitating.”

Certain city requirements, such as safety issues concerning mounting height and nighttime lighting, have been worked out, Driggers said, and AWEGO is working with the city on a timeframe for raising the money and installing the statue.

Enriching the community

Fundraising began last summer, but AWEGO increased the efforts at the beginning of this year, Driggers said.

And “it seems to be gaining momentum,” he added.

AWEGO had information tables at a number of community events this year, including Golden High School PTA’s annual Chili Cook-off on Feb. 23 and at the April 19 artist meet-and-greet with Don Kennell, who sculpted the Rocky Mountain Hummer at the King Soopers roundabout on South Golden Road.

Just over $200 was raised during AWEGO’s fundraising event at the July 1 Golden Farmers’ Market, for which five Golden students and three adult artists donated original artwork for proceeds to benefit AWEGO.

“This is a group of neighbors coming together and working hard for something to be enjoyed by all,” Rodd said. “Public art is enrichment for everyone’s lives. Even a small donation can give people the sense of contributing to the enrichment of Golden.”


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