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DENVER -- A public art project to benefit a community and children, or a “slap in the face” to the community that’s being impacted in a much deeper way?
As part of the Central 70 Project, reconstruction of the 10-mile stretch of I-70 between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road includes the building of a wooden construction wall or safety barrier next to Swansea Elementary School, with plans to have local artists paint kid’s themed murals on that wall.
“This is a piece of infrastructure,” Rebecca White with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) said. “But can we make this a space that the students actually like looking out on for the next four years.”
Denver Public Schools requested the wall as an extra safety layer between the school and the active construction site. It’s 12 feet high and 700 feet long.
“It’s a pretty substantial space which provides just an enormous canvas for art,” White said.
CDOT has recruited 35 artists to paint scenes representing “play” on the wall.
“We’re gonna make this wall beautiful and playful and fun,” artist Jenny Goring told Denver7.
Goring, along with the other artists, will each be paid $800 for their murals. CDOT says that money will come from the construction developer and other private sources.
“I’m really proud to be one of the people helping make their play place safe and not just physically safe but emotionally and happy place for them,” she said.
But not everyone is sold on the idea of this being a positive.
“It adds insult to injury for this community,” community activist Candi CdeBaca said.
She lives about a block away from the construction project and the school. She’s been an outspoken opponent, including being part of lawsuits trying to stop the project from happening.
“In my opinion it’s to hide what they’re doing on the other side of that wall,” she said. “And it’s to create an image for onlookers that really misleads. It doesn’t tell the truth of what’s happening.”
CdeBaca says a coat of paint won’t make up for what will happen to the Swansea community as a result of four years of construction.
“The wall creates nothing of value to this community,” she said. “Even with local art on it.”
But CDOT says opposition of the mural is misplaced.
“We can talk about highway and infrastructure until the sun goes down but this is different. This is for the kids,” Rebecca White said.
Painting starts August 25.