Council Approves Robotic Art Installation

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Hustvedt.

Wheat Ridge city councilors voted to move forward on a $160,000 on a futuristic robotic art installation for the Ward Road pedestrian bridge during their April 8 meeting. 

Oregon-based artist Tyler Fuqua’s Mechan and Celestial Vines robotic art piece was selected out of 169 other submissions after a 2023 national call for entries seeking a permanent installation at the plaza and multi-use trail area of the pedestrian bridge at the Ward Road RTD station.

Under the public art management plan, the city hired art consultant Kendall Peterson to manage the call for entrees application and selection process. The selection panel included community and elected members, and city staff.

Fuqua’s 15-foot robot will interact with the public, appearing to present a flower to passers-by, while artificial vines will adorn the stairway.

“People might travel out to see this,” suggested Peterson. “It makes the place feel more friendly.”

Following the board’s approval, the project moves on to the contract and site selection process. The installation should be complete in 2025. 

City Manager Patrick Goff explained to the board the funding for the project comes from the Urban Renewal Project Budget and from private development, which goes into a fund that can be utilized throughout the city. The bridge and trail project cost about $16 million. One percent of the project’s cost is allocated for public art at the site.

“Oh my gosh, I love this so much,” said District II Councilor Rachel Hultin during the board’s discussion of the project. “This is going to be super exciting and I will be one of the first people to cross the bridge.”

District II Councilor Scott Ohm was excited for the city to have a piece of art unique to the state.

“I do see it as this will be a destination piece, that we’ll be the only ones in Colorado to have this, and people will come to have their picture taken with it, and want to travel to Wheat Ridge,” Ohm said. “Hopefully we can roll out the welcome mat and show them Wheat Ridge the community.”

In addition to the art project approval, the councilors held a study session to discuss zoning changes to the Lutheran Legacy campus, and the city’s response to traffic issues, a topic which prompted most of public comment.  

Tamara Phalen told the council she was excited the city was taking a holistic look at traffic in the city, and asked them to look at qualitative data in addition to the quantitative data, and consider updated speed bumps and signage to decrease vehicle speed. 

“Whatever you can do to make our road less attractive to cut-through traffic I would very much appreciate it,” Phalen said. 

Candace Tomlinson asked the council for a single focal point for traffic concerns in the city.

“Traffic is a multifaceted problem requiring an integrated approach,” Tomlinson said. “It’s very frustrating for citizens to try the police department, try public works, try NTMP (the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program) and for none of them is traffic their number one priority of issue.”

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