Art project to add character, color to new Aurora rec center


AURORA | Scott Parsons would prefer if you kept his domain name out of earshot of some of his fellow parishioners in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I do a lot of church work,” he says with a chuckle over the phone.

And Parsons isn’t convinced his fellow volunteers would readily endorse the name of the professional website he’s maintained for years:

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek sort of thing — the notion that fine art has to be framed and put in a gallery or museum,” he says. “But I’m much more interested in doing relevant work that meets people on their own terms and enhances their everyday experience.”

The confessional is waiting, Scott.

Parsons and his sheepishly irreverent website make up one half of the design team that has been commissioned to bring effervescent splashes of glass to Aurora’s forthcoming Central Recreation Center once the facility opens to the public late next year.

Parsons and Denver-based public artist David Griggs earlier this spring won the bid to construct a massive public art project at the soon-to-be-erected, nearly 55,000-square-foot recreation facility near the corner of Telluride Street and Vassar Place.

The design team beat out nearly 270 other artists to win the $400,000 contract for the project, according to city documents. The application pool for the public art project was the largest in Aurora in recent memory, according to Roberta Bloom, public art coordinator for the city.

The commission for the project is being exclusively financed through the city’s novel ordinance requiring that 1 percent of the total budget in city construction projects that exceed $100,000 be used for public art.

Expected to feature an aquatics center, elevated track, multiple fitness studios and short-term childcare facilities, the new facility will be the first of its kind built in Aurora in several decades.

The project, expected to cost about $30 million, is being funded by marijuana tax revenues. City officials have tentatively earmarked $2 million annually for the next 25 years to pay off a bond to contrstuct the new facility.

The city’s Art in Public Places Commission, Cultural Services commission, the city council committee that deals with public relations, and a nine-member art selection panel all signed off on the proposal submitted by Griggs and Parsons. The project will soon head to the full city council for final approval.

The project is only the latest on which Griggs and Parsons have collaborated to construct, with previous joint works commissioned at the Cable Center on the University of Denver campus, Western State University in Gunnison, and Augustana University in South Dakota, where Parsons also teaches drawing and printmaking.

The duo met several years ago when they were both living and working in nearby studios in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District. Griggs still lives and works in the area, although Parsons moved to South Dakota about 12 years ago to pursue his work as a professor.

The pair’s new Aurora project will feature three distinct aspects: Colored glass splashed across the front windows of the building, long glass tubes intended to mimic “star trails” coursing through the entrance lobby, and more colored glass on the south wall of the building’s gymnasium. All of the aspects are meant to evoke movement, Parsons said.

“What I remember about visiting the other rec centers (in Aurora) is how the kids would just run from the car to the front entrance,” he said. “We wanted to have something that would carry the energy of the human body and spiritual expression of wellness and health, and have it engage you from the outside of the building and draw you in.”

The design team plans to use about 950 square feet of glass just for the entrance and the gymnasium components of the project, according Griggs (who presides over a cheeky professional website of his own — Several hundred more square feet of glass will be used to complete the star trails installation.

Unique to this project is the integration of architecture and art, Bloom said, as the city doesn’t have many examples of art projects that have been incorporated into buildings as they’ve been constructed.

“I just am so pleased with this team of architects and the (Parks, Recreation and Open Space) staff and the project manager,” she said. “They all had to buy in to this idea and see this as an opportunity, or just it wouldn’t happen — period.”

Construction on the facility is expected to begin late this year, and the center could open sometime in late 2018, Bloom said.

“I think that this is a project that everybody will be able to be genuinely proud of,” she said. “It’s located in a part of the city where there aren’t other clusters of public art … This whole building is going to be like a gem — a real jewel.”