Federal Art Project Creates Jobs

Local Artists Paint Colorful Mural Downtown

The first time Darrell Anderson stepped into the U.S. Custom House on 20th Street and Stout Street, he had been drafted into military service during the Vietnam War.

"Originally, it was very intimidating for me to be involved in this space," said Darrell Anderson.

Decades later, he's back on his own terms.

"To come back as an artist some 30 years later and to make a work of art has something to do with the expansion of creativity," said Anderson.

An international artist with more than 24 years of experience, Anderson jumped at the opportunity to design public art for the General Services Administration and the exterior wall outside the Denver U.S. Custom House.

The GSA's Regional Fine Arts Program commissioned Anderson and set aside $145,000 for the "Imagine" project.

"We wanted this art to speak to this blank wall that we had. We also wanted to make it special for the community and the city," said Janet Gressly, the GSA's Art and Urban Livability Program Specialist.

Anderson hired local contractors to help him create the nearly 150-foot long mural giving the struggling art community a boost.

"It's really a wonderful cascade effect. Not only do we get a great work of art, we get to help support the community economically as well," said Gressly.

For more than a year, local contractors and artists worked with Anderson to create the three-dimensional, interactive mural.

"My sole purpose was to stimulate people's imagination," said Anderson. He's been busy putting finishing touches on the elaborate wiring and lighting portion of the mural.

The "Imagine" artwork is the first of its kind in Denver. It incorporates musical recordings, LED lighting, fabricated steel, paint, philosophical phrases and mosaic glass into a vivid depiction of the history of the Denver U.S. Custom House and those who have worked or visited the courtrooms and offices inside.

"What was unique about this for me was to actually bring the building into the art and the people who work in the building," said Anderson.

Messages are written in steno-type, braille and Morse code. Music and lights are triggered by hidden sensors and are active 24 hours a day.

"People will create their own stories. They will create their own understandings of the sayings and the songs. Please stop and use your mind because it's a beautiful thing," said Anderson.

The "Imagine" art project will be officially dedicated on Friday, Oct. 1.

To learn more about Darrell Anderson visit his site Darrell Anderson.

To learn more about the GSA's Art Program visit GSA Art in Architecture.