Art on the Corner, a key draw for visitors downtown, could be poised for growth
When artist Dave Davis had the idea to get 11 sculptors together to install art pieces across Main Street in downtown Grand Junction, his hope was to help a depressed economy by attracting cultural tourists and in turn bring in art galleries.
“The direction of the show kind of took a sidestep to be a bellwether to bring artists to the community and bring the art community here to diversify the income,” said Davis, who founded downtown’s Art on the Corner in 1984. “When that started, there was very little money floating around.”
More than 30 years after the first art pieces were installed, the exhibit of now more than 100 pieces may not have transformed Grand Junction into an artist haven comparable to the likes of Santa Fe, New Mexico, but the impact has certainly been felt in the Grand Valley. And after nearly six years of not adding a new permanent piece, it could be time to once again grow the collection.
Art on the Corner started with 26 pieces and added at least one per year for several years. Davis passed the exhibit off to the Downtown Development Authority, which is still in control of the program. Until recently, the newest sculpture was added in 2010 until earlier this year when the sunflower piece in the roundabout at Seventh and Main streets was purchased and no longer considered a temporary installation.
DDA Executive Director Brandon Stam attributed the drop off in new pieces to a shrinking budget and existing sculptures that were in need of repair.
“There were already a lot of pieces and there wasn’t a lot of upkeep,” Stam said.
That could change as Stam noted an effort already underway to spruce up several items and the DDA is open to exploring the possibility of adding pieces. The Frog Prince was restored and reinstalled last month and there is a plan to repaint the apple near Seventh and Main streets by the end of the year. The DDA also increased its annual honorarium from $500 to $800. The sunflowers were purchased for $9,000 thanks to an $8,000 contribution from Legends of the Grand Valley and a $1,000 gift from a private donor.
Stam noted the importance of the exhibit as a draw to downtown and something that keeps people in the area.
“I think it’s one of the key things. It’s hard to put a number to, but we always get people asking about the sculptures,” he said. “It helps create the Main Street character. Without art, it’s not as interesting.”
The exhibit is also getting ready to swap out about 15 temporary pieces and replace them with new sculptures as part of the second-annual Downtown Art Festival, sponsored by the Downtown Business Improvement District. The temporary pieces are replaced annually, and the new sculptures were selected by curator Avery Glassman this year.
“I think it’s one of our biggest draws of the downtown community. It’s beloved by locals and visitors,” said Allison Blevins, executive director of the Downtown BID.
The art festival runs Friday and Saturday and the Art on the Corner installation will happen Saturday morning, led by the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department.
Recreation Coordinator Tina Ross will be leading the installation effort this year and said everything should be wrapped up by early afternoon.
The art festival and the changing out of pieces also is a good time to spruce up and repair sculptures in need of some work, which Ross said she is trying to organize.
Ross started working on Art on the Corner earlier this year and said that while she always knew about it, she did not appreciate what it brings to the downtown area until she got a closer look.
“It’s priceless. People don’t understand the culture and immensity of what it brings downtown,” she said. “It adds to the richness of the area.”
Visit Grand Junction Executive Director Debbie Kovalik noted the importance of keeping the exhibit fresh with temporary pieces as it keeps people coming back and seeing something new.
“There will always be something new and they know that. It brings them back downtown,” she said.
The exhibit remains immensely popular as Davis called it the most photographed attraction in Grand Junction, including Colorado National Monument. Kovalik said it’s the second-most visited attraction after the monument.
“It’s all about extending the length of stay downtown,” she said. “It gives people a reason to walk up and back all six blocks, to see and go into the different retail merchants on Main Street.”