By Todd Shepherd | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — A Los Angeles artist has been paid $45,000 in federal stimulus funds to visit a site here and submit a preliminary design, a down payment on a $434,000 stimulus-funded art award for the Byron Rogers federal building downtown here.
According to the federal government’s stimulus clearinghouse website recovery.gov, the award created:
- Three-tenths of a job for the first three months of 2012,
- One full-time job for April-June 2011,
- Nine-thousandths of a full-time job for the first three months of 2011.
The same report says the project is less than 50 percent complete, and a progress report states, “preparing final proposal to be submitted 4/23/2012.Trip to Tucson AZ. for material research. Working with fabricator to develop final proposal.”
The Rogers building is undergoing a $129.5 million renovation, also funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. During construction of a new building or during significant renovations, the U.S. General Services Administration is required to allocate one-half of 1 percent of the total cost to artwork for the building.
The artist, Liz Larner, referred all questions from Colorado Watchdog to GSA.
The L.A. Times describes Larner’s works as “mongrel abstractions,” while another publication said Larner’s sculptures use “unexpected color and unconventional materials to challenge the viewer’s notions of space and volume.”
However it is described, the nearly $500,000 work is likely to generate debate. ”Blue Mustang” at Denver International Airport and “National Velvet” near a pedestrian bridge in Denver raised more questions about beauty than dollars and cents. Denver’s “Blue Bear” is seen as a piece of public art that generates wide praise.
GSA defended the $45,000 payment for Larner’s single site visit. “Generally, 20 percent of the total budget is allocated for the design phase and 80 percent of the total is for the materials, fabrication, shipping and installation of the final artwork,” GSA spokeswoman Sally Mayberry said via email.
Should stimulus money be used for art? And should stimulus money reportedly spent in Colorado go to an out-of-state artist?
“Artists are selected without regard to their geographic location,” said Mayberry. “Nonetheless, the production and installation of an artwork generally results in a number of purchases, job creation, and expenditures in the area where the work is to be located.”
A recent CBS 4 Denver report found that $300,000 in graffiti art at Denver International Airport went to artists out of state and even outside the U.S.
The renovation of the Rogers building has proven to be truly “shovel ready,” employing as many as 250 people each day. According to the Denver Business Journal, the project also ambitiously hopes to cut the building’s energy consumption by 70 percent.