A new sculpture park takes shape on top of Pueblo’s Arkansas River levee
Colorado artists are turning the recently rebuilt Arkansas River levee in Pueblo into an outdoor art gallery, including sculptures.
The first three-dimensional piece on the levee is an eight-foot-tall abstract sculpture in red that contrasts sharply with the sky. Its geometric shapes appear to morph depending on the angle, which is the signature style of Pueblo artist John Wilbar.
Two more works are going in this winter, according to sculpture park coordinator and artist Eric McCue, including one of his own.
“We're looking for fun, whimsical, colorful things that break up the space,” he said. “To make people pause and look and then step off the trail and take a breather.”
McCue said they’re aiming for a total of ten sculptures by regional Colorado artists, who will be paid for having their work on display along the paved trail for a year. New works will rotate into the outdoor exhibit.
Like at a regular gallery, McCue said the artwork may be for sale. If it sells while on display, the Pueblo Conservancy District, which oversees the project, will get a 25 percent commission that will be used toward sustaining the program.
“It's great for them. It's great for us,” he said. “It’s all synergy. We're all trying to make this place a better place.”
Dozens of artists have also painted some 90 murals on the concrete levee in the last two years, with more planned. Longtime levee mural coordinator Cynthia Ramu said it isn’t easy working on the steep wall, but that hasn’t kept people from putting their artwork on the huge concrete canvas.
“It's pretty awesome. We have quite a few that are first-time muralists,” she said. “They're doing such a fantastic job.”
There’s a lot of space for more murals along the 2.8-mile-long levee, including a designated area near the white water park for pieces with local history themes.
The levee was once the site of the world's largest outdoor mural, but the original artwork was destroyed when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) required repairs to the aging flood control structure. That work was completed in 2021, and the final certification paperwork has been submitted to FEMA.
The levee was originally built after a deadly flood in 1921 devastated downtown Pueblo, and the engineers at the time actually rerouted the Arkansas River to its current location.
Ramu said at the rate new murals are going up, it's possible that they could take the national record in the next few years, on their way to one day hopefully regaining the world record.
More Pueblo levee coverage
- The 1921 Flood Changed Pueblo Forever. What Has Recovery Looked Like?
- New pedestrian bridge will open more recreational opportunities on Arkansas River in Pueblo
- Artists paint Ukrainian sunflowers and dozens of other murals as art returns to the levee in Pueblo
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