At the ribbon cutting ceremony of the `LandMark’ art installation, the Arvada Press’ Ryan Dunn spoke to District Two Councilmember Lauren Simpson about the importance of public art in the …
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At the ribbon cutting ceremony of the `LandMark’ art installation, the Arvada Press’ Ryan Dunn spoke to District Two Councilmember Lauren Simpson about the importance of public art in the community and Simpson’s own love of the arts.
Their conversation has been edited slightly for clarity.
Where does your love of art come from?
My love for art stems from when I was a kid. I was a very awkward child, contrary to popular belief. I was tall, I was gangly. And it wasn’t until I discovered the arts — particularly theater for me — that I made friends as a child.
So, the arts for me have a very special place because it’s what gave me an identity when I was young and it gave me a creative outlet, and I understand how important the arts are for people because it really, truly serves as our storytelling mechanism. It helps us create the stories and the sense of identity that help us shape the world and tell narratives that enable us to be able to connect with stories that aren’t necessarily our own. So, I love that about art, and I think art is incredibly important for those reasons and so many others.
What do you believe is the importance of the ‘LandMark’ exhibit?
This public art initiative is extremely important to me, particularly on the East side of the town. We’re the older side of the town, we have a lot of infrastructure needs, we’re not quite as new, not quite as shiny as the newer parts of town, particularly the West side of town.
Here we have these wonderful parks — Creekside, Majestic View — and we need this art, this art that really connects to people. Here, we have the Flats at Creekside. This isn’t our luxury apartments over here, these are our average, everyday residents who have average, normal jobs, and they deserve public art too.
So, to have this beautiful piece over here that they can look at, that their children can enjoy, that their families can enjoy when they’re out, it’s just really important for community identity, community placemaking.
I was first elected in 2019, and placemaking was a main priority of mine. And this is really the essence of placemaking; public art, beautification of our community, and creating this narrative that we can all come around and enjoy together.
How does the exhibit’s theme of coming together resonate with you?
Coming out of the pandemic, I don’t think anyone would disagree that this has probably been the hardest year our society has ever endured — and this was my first year in office, so that gives a completely new perspective.
We have been responding on all fronts — an economic crisis, a health crisis — and now we’re at this point where people are able to become vaccinated and we’re starting to look to ‘what does that future look like?’ and ‘how do we emerge?’ Different people have different comfort levels, different people have different availabilities, and so what does that world look like as we emerge from this pandemic? What things from before do we want to go back to, and also, what from the last year do we want to change for good?
Before the ceremony, (Councilmember) Nancy (Ford), (Mayor) Marc (Williams), and I were talking about hybrid meetings, and how important it is to keep those for all residents, regardless of whether or not they can make a meeting. You might have someone who is sick, or has childcare duties, might have chronic back pain — any number of reasons why they can’t make it — but they should still have access to that meeting. Particularly City Council. I love the fact that we all know how to do hybrid meetings now and I think that’s really important to keep.
In terms of these different pieces of art, you have `Nesting Crane’ over here. That’s a sense of calm, a sense of tranquility. I love the fact that it’s by the water because I feel that’s very symbolic in its own sense. Water can be chaos, but it can also be so peaceful. And so, I feel like this piece in particular belongs right here because it brings this sense of beauty and calm in nature, and it reminds us to slow down.
And that’s one of the things from before the pandemic — we were always so busy, we always had something to do, we didn’t always take the time to be with our families and our loved ones. And here we are now, we’ve spent over a year at home, and we’ve slowed down. And I think a lot of people don’t want to go back to the way things were before; they want a new sense, a hybrid sense.
And so, this piece of art is exactly like the water; it balances water, but also with tranquility — and that’s what we need right now.
The ‘LandMark’ exhibit features artists from diverse backgrounds. How important is it to showcase a range of perspectives?
It’s so important because we all live in this society together and we don’t all share a single point of view. As an elected official, I can tell you, I am very familiar that people do not always share a point of view. And so, I think it’s incredibly important because, like I said before, art is a really great way for us to understand the stories and the narratives of the people who are not from our world, who are not from our background.
The artist of this piece talked about being born and growing up in her early years in Japan. So, that’s really important because the crane is a really important symbol in Japanese culture. I myself have never lived in Japanese culture, so that’s not something I can speak to firsthand. But she can! So, being able to read her story, understand through her art, it brings me a greater worldview and a greater perspective of stories that aren’t my own.
I think in this current political climate, it’s pretty intense. There’s a lot of fighting and a lot of jumping to conclusions about one another and I think through art we’re able to get a better grasp of what other people are trying to tell us in a nonconfrontational way, and that’s extremely important.
We’re a wonderful community, and regardless of what your political beliefs are, I think people in this community want the same things; we want beautiful parks, we want great schools for our children, we want safe neighborhoods. When we understand that we all come from that same place, we realize we’re not so different — even if we may look different, even if we believe differently, we’re really not so different at the core of it. And art really cuts through all of the noise and helps us see that about one another.
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