This article originally appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine.
Downtown Grand Junction streets are lined with sculptures, monuments, and interactive art pieces, all vying for our attention. These colorful wood, metal, and fused-glass installations inspire whimsy, curiosity, and Instagram photos from thousands of tourists and local visitors who flock downtown to enjoy Grand Junction’s most popular destination for art and culture.
With music venues, art galleries, and a rotating Art on the Corner exhibit, Downtown Grand Junction has made significant investments in the artistic community.
“We are striving to be art friendly,” says Downtown Grand Junction Marketing and Communications Specialist Caitlyn Love. “With new programs like Street Beat, Electric Art, and the downtown mural projects, we try to be supportive of art projects and the creative community.”
The beauty and vibrancy we enjoy today is largely thanks to Dave Davis, a visionary sculptor and magnet in the Colorado art scene. Davis, who passed away this past August in his Clifton art studio, was key in jumpstarting downtown’s investment in the arts by founding Art on the Corner in 1984. The public art project helped galvanize a community still dealing with the fallout of the infamous “Black Sunday” oil-shale bust of 1982.
What originally started as a downtown beautification and revitalization project has now grown to be a proven economic driver for downtown businesses and artists.
“Art on the Corner is a huge draw for the downtown area,” Love says. “It brings so many people together, and it gives visitors a chance to connect with artists and see their unique style.”
For sculpture artists like Pavia Justinian, Art on the Corner and similar programs are invaluable chances to connect with art collectors and sell their work.
“Big art displays well. Small art sells well,” Justinian says. “People may not buy a big sculpture, but they might contact me later to see if other work is available for purchase. It’s great publicity for artists.”
Artists who take advantage of programs like Art on the Corner can collect multiple stipends on work that would be valued in the tens of thousands but may be difficult to sell. For sculpture artists in particular, these stipends are one of the few realistic ways to monetize their art.
“Dave really laid the groundwork for other cities to emulate Art on the Corner,” Justinian says. “Now that other cities have similar programs, there is more opportunity for me to get art on public display, and a way to make money.”
Justinian is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University and a former apprentice under Davis. Through Davis’ guidance she learned new artistic techniques and trade skills, like how to weld and work with various metals. Now an accomplished sculptor, Justinian has shown her work in exhibits across the West. In 2016, she won Best in Show in Art on the Corner for “Sigma.” In this year’s collection, she debuted a new piece made in collaboration with Davis, called “Untitled.” Davis and Justinian finished this abstract sculpture about one month before his passing, and it is likely his last completed sculpture.
For working artists, opportunity is everything. Now, thanks to a new designation, there may be more opportunities for artists coming to the downtown area. Recently, Downtown Grand Junction was awarded Creative District status by Colorado Creative Industries. The goal of the designation is to draw artists to the downtown community and foster local economic activity through the arts. According to Love, it brings Downtown Grand Junction more opportunities for grant funding and helps it get on Colorado Department of Transportation signage, which means more statewide exposure.
“The potential of a creative art district is exciting,” Justinian says. “I’m excited to see where it goes, but if you’re going to be a creative district it needs to be something more than the name.”
Throughout history, Downtown Grand Junction has reinvented itself for the better. It’s taken bold leaders with big ideas to guide the future of the area. Community leaders came together in 1962 to complete Operation Foresight, an innovative city design project that added the iconic curve to Main Street and won Grand Junction the All-American City award. Davis created Art on the Corner 22 years later, further adding to the beauty and economic diversity of downtown. Now a new opportunity presents itself with the Creative District designation. The only question is, who will have the next great idea to build upon Downtown Grand Junction’s growing vitality?
“Affirmation Station” by Timothy Flood photo by Caitlyn Love.