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City Reframed

City Reframed

“What kind of joke is this?” I thought December 14th as I saw the first nighttime photo of the big blue frame erected in the Garden of the Gods. My first instinct was to assume it was similar to the yearly April Fool’s Day fake news that the Garden’s Balancing Rock had toppled.  Or perhaps it was the work of a vandal avant garde renegade Dada artist making some ironic statement about how attached our ego is to our mobile devices and how a naive and limited scope of a singular view can “ruin it” for others. Being ever the wishful thinker, I was disheartened to learn that neither of these scenarios were the real motivation behind the frame. The reason for its placement was even more absurd and not a joke at all. Somehow the big blue frame was the brainchild of the construction company contracted for a majority of the city’s construction projects, and was built and installed with the help and approval of the mayor’s wife.  Almost immediately, the torches of social media were lit and the villagers circulated online petitions to rally against this perceived injustice against nature and perspective.

I soon experienced a heavy embarrassment for our local community, as a sanctuary and trust had been violated.  I felt outrage and contempt for our local governance when they advised, “wait until we put the lettering on it” and “give it a year.” I began thinking about other times in the history of our growing city that the leaders and developers showed little foresight in making decisions that affect this community.  Hypocritical development and investment, the absence of consideration in some parts of the city, and the lack of care and concern for others are issues that have required attention for years.   I felt  now that our civic leaders had created an icon so worthy of ridicule and mockery, it could be used to represent and highlight these many injustices.

Unsuccessful in my attempts to locate or purchase yellow crime scene tape for an immediate action in protest against the placement of the frame,  I quickly built and painted a cartoonishly proportioned miniature frame and mounted it on a styrofoam base. I considered not wasting any more of my time by following through with my plan, but reconsidered as I saw the new image of the frame with its white lettering, now a #OlympicCityUSA billboard in our park, and that some people even have the nerve to call it “art.”

I considered painting words that were less offensive than “Keeping CS Lame” on the mock frame, but ultimately decided that biting satire is most effective. I considered the numerous places all over town I could drive to set up the mock frame and snap a photo, a hillside overlooking the eastern suburban sprawl, the Drake power plant downtown, any number of homeless camps throughout the city, multiple distressed properties and vacant buildings, congestion, the annual potholes that plague our streets, as well as the blue frame in the Garden itself.

Not being a good photographer, not willing to wait for morning light, and not wanting to waste any more time on this ludicrous topic, I realized that to get my point across, I didn’t need to drive all over town; all I needed was one good image. My first destination was Memorial Park and Prospect Lake to frame the long-neglected non-functional restrooms. My light was quickly dimming as I drove around getting a few more photos, an abandoned house on my block, another neglected park, the obtrusive government buildings in our civic center, another Olympic billboard sold to the city as “art,” the steam-spewing Drake power plant, and the construction beginning downtown by the company responsible for the frame in the first place, before heading to my new favorite brewery to enjoy their sweet unfiltered IPA and share my critique.

I am sure that the more than twenty thousand signatures on the online petition ultimately brought about the removal of the frame from the Garden the following morning, but my frame got a significant amount of attention.  Judging from the response of the community and the reaction I received from the local media, my satire was relevant, if not downright confusing for those that actually thought a frame was installed in Memorial Park!

After several requests to share my image and meet for an interview from multiple news stations, I released a statement to the media that I probably would have not bothered to write had I known the frame would be removed from the Garden the following morning. Sure there is the larger story of a city’s government that has mostly been controlled by builders and developers for forty years, and the mess that confluence of power has been allowed to create.  The political environment of Colorado Springs where profit and privatization trump communal needs and universal interests has led to unattractive, impersonal urban sprawl .  Our undermined and ineffective public transportation, congested roads, blocked downtown arteries of commerce and civic activity, and demolished beautiful historic buildings are real issues.   Creation of new taxes and fees have been made necessary by decades of poor planning, and innovative ideas are continually squelched or compromised for concrete boxes of banking and bureaucracy.

This story is about a divided community uniting to stand for something that we believe in, and made our voices heard to enact change. Will we continue to speak out? Was the big blue frame the right thing to get upset about? Will we know when to come together when we perceive future injustice? Will they listen to us again? Will we learn from our mistakes, change and do things differently? Probably not, but thank goodness for the comforting relief and power of satire.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Perhaps satire is the best answer to the monetization of our public spaces. Everything for sale, trivializing real community. Thank you for your activism.

  2. Though the outcry may seem trivial, if the public remains silent about the small things, the powers that be will have no second thoughts about upping the ante. I think we have seen that play out on the national stage.

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Neil Fenton

Neil Fenton

Neil Fenton is a painter, sculptor and illustrator. A native of Colorado, he lives with his wife and two cats in Colorado Springs, where he enjoys gardening and hiking in the mountains.

www.fentonworkshop.com

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