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Union Station: Could model-train layouts qualify for public-art commissions?

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Miniatures are big in art.
Last week, Union Station Alliance announced the first three restaurant tenants that will be in the rehabbed station for its summer 2012 opening -- local projects all. But while a Snooze, the Kitchen Next Door and a new market/restaurant concept from Fruition's Alex Seidel have signed on, it's still unknown whether any model railroaders will be in the kitchen with Dinah. Although train layouts have been features in the station's basement for decades (eight, in the case of the Denver Society of Model Railroaders), they've been told to pack up. But could they come back as art?

The developers vying for the Union Station contract initially told both of Union Station's clubs -- which held regular open houses to share their obsession with the public -- that they would be able to keep their layouts in the building after it closed at the start of 2012 for renovations, and then would be able to reopen with the remodeled facility. But USA, which ultimately won the contract, last month told Platte Valley & Western Rail Road club members that not only would they have to pack up during construction, but the layout would have to move permanently.

And then USA issued a statement that made it seem like the same fate might be in store for the DSMR, noting that in "an effort to renovate the building and to create a safe environment for future patrons, we must ask these train clubs to move from the building. In an effort to show our ongoing support of the model train clubs, we are working with the clubs to find acceptable space for the storage and potential permanent exhibition space."

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Negotiations are still continuing with the train clubs on both storage and permanent space, according to USA.

At this point, though, it would seem there's only one way that the clubs could climb on board plans for the new Union Station -- and that's to qualify as art. The Denver Union Station Project Authority will be awarding $500,000 in public-art commissions, which could keep the clubs on track. But do model trains rank as art? Even Tarry Harrison, spokesman for the PV&W, has his doubts about whether his club's 2,000-square-foot layout, which was in Union Station for three decades, would qualify. "The artistic quality that was our layout is no more, as it succumbed to devastation in an attempt to save it," he reports. "It could not fit through the doors, so we had to leave some really irreplaceable parts due to its fragility and construction type. The builders trashed it in order to make way for the saw cuts in the floor. To say some of us are depressed would be an understatement."

Getting a big public-art commission would go a long way toward lifting that depression; as it is, Harrison's group will be working on an exhibit at History Colorado next month -- which may not qualify as art, but comes close.

The deadline to apply for a Union station public-art commission is June 1. Here are the details:

Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) is seeking an artist, or artist team, for a site-specific public-art commission that will enhance this expansive, multimodal transportation project -- the largest transit redevelopment project in North America.

The art selection process will be managed by Denver Arts & Venues Public Art staff, but this project is not a City and County of Denver One Percent for Art project. The funds are administered by the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA). Possible locations and themes within the transit platforms and plazas have been identified. This commission is open to artists/artist teams working in all media, but the work must have a presence during both day and night. The estimated budget of $500,000 USD is all inclusive.

About Denver Union Station:
Denver Union Station (DUS) will serve as a multimodal transportation hub, integrating light rail, commuter rail, and intercity rail (Amtrak), as well as regional, express, and local bus service, the 16th Street Mall shuttle, Downtown Circulator, and intercity buses, taxis, shuttles, vans, limousines, bicycles and pedestrians.

In 2008, a master plan for the future Denver Union Station was established. Utilizing a hub and spoke transit model, DUS will accommodate pedestrian traffic from 10 modes of transit and 6 public plazas while preserving the historic station. This project will be a gateway for roughly 100,000 - 160,000 daily travelers, and will be accessible 24 hours a day. Amtrak's California Zephyr: Chicago - San Francisco will continue to have daily west-bound access each morning and east-bound access each evening. The new commuter rail will serve as a direct leg to and from Denver International Airport. DUS will also serve as a transfer station for the ever-growing RTD FasTracks transportation system.

Denver's first train arrived in the Central Platte Valley on June 21, 1870, and the city's first Union Station was constructed in 1880. The original Union Station building burned on March 18, 1894, when a fire ignited the electrical system of the ladies' restroom. Damage was considerable, destroying the building's wooden tower; however, the station was quickly rebuilt. During the station's glory days of the 1920's and 1930's, 80 trains were operated a day. Until 1958, Denver Union Station had more travelers than Stapleton Airport - then Denver's primary airport.

Union Station is situated in a historically significant location not far from Denver's original settlement at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. The historic Union Station building will remain intact, but will be transformed into a boutique hotel (upper levels). The building's Great Hall (ground level) will serve as a public thoroughfare and meeting place. Travelers will pass through it to access Wynkoop Street and it will include a mix of restaurants and retail shops. Significant developments around this historic structure also acknowledge the confluence of past and present. Dense development is happening concurrently in the immediate surrounding areas. Between 2005 and 2015, 15 multi-story private and commercial real estate developments will be completed.

For more information on the development of Denver Union Station, visit:
www.denverunionstation.org
www.unionstationdenver.com

Public Art: Parameters & Goals

The Selection Panel identified specific goals for this public art with the hope of creating a unique work of art that references the past, present and future of this transit project:

Appropriate & Unique:
The selection panel seeks a unique, one-of-a-kind artwork.

Locations:
Below are a variety of potential locations, as determined by the Selection Panel.:
• The main plaza, situated between the west side of the historic Denver Union Station and the transit platforms and terminals
• The approach (stair and escalator) from the underground bus terminals to the main plaza and/or Wewatta plaza
• Interior of the 22 bay, subterranean bus terminal, which spans roughly 1,000 ft
• Wewatta Street Plaza

For project renderings, visit:
http://denverunionstation.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=14

The exterior and interior of the historical Union Station structure itself is not a potential location for this project.

Materials & Media:
The selection panel is open to artwork in all media and materials, including kinetic or light-based media. DUS will operate 24 hours a day, and therefore, the artwork must have a presence at both day and night.

Durability & Maintenance:
All public art projects in Colorado are exposed to weather, physical stresses and subject to vandalism and should be fabricated of highly durable, low-maintenance materials. Semi-finalists are encouraged to consult with a professional conservator prior to the submission of a final proposal. Artist proposals awarded contracts will be reviewed by the Denver Union Station Project Authority Board, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board, and the Department of Construction and Engineering to ensure conformity with City standards of maintenance and durability and ADA standards. All finalists are expected to stay on budget and to complete work in an approved time frame.

Applying for these opportunities:
In response to this RFQ, applicants will be asked to submit eight digital images, a résumé, and a statement of interest of no longer than 2000 characters via www.callforentry.org (CaFÉ™). From these applications, the selection panel may choose three to five semi-finalists who will interview with the panel. If a formal proposal is requested, the artist will be provided an honorarium to prepare and present the proposal in person. Semi-finalists are strongly encouraged to conduct a site visit, and will be expected to pay for travel expenses from the honorarium. From the interview or proposal, artists will be selected for this commission.

Eligibility:
This project is open to artists, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, gender variance, national origin, age, religion, marital status, political opinion or affiliation or mental or physical handicap. Artists working in any media are eligible to apply. Artists are not required to have previous experience in public art, and emerging artists are invited to apply for this commission.

Can a team apply?
Applicant(s) may apply as a single artist or multi-person collaboration. In the case of teams, please submit a single résumé for the whole team (see details below).

Selected artists for the commission will collaborate with the Denver Union Station Project Authority and the Regional Transportation District Board when finalizing their designs for installation.

Budget:
The budget for this commission is approximately $500,000 USD which will be allocated to the artists/team selected by the selection panel. This contract amount is inclusive of all costs associated with the project including, but not limited to, honorariums for semi-finalists, the artist's design fee, other consultation fees such as structural engineering, insurance, including Colorado Workers Compensation, tools, materials, fabrication, transportation and installation, including any building or site modification required, travel to and from the site, per diem expenses, project documentation, contingency to cover unexpected expenses and any other costs of any kind. The project timeline will not allow for the artwork to be integrated within existing construction. Budget will need to include all foundational and infrastructural supports.

Tentative Time Line:
(Except for online application deadline, timeline is subject to adjustments):
Saturday, June 1, 2013, 5:00 p.m. MDT Deadline for entry
Week of June 10, 2013 Semi-Finalist Selection
Week of July, 29, 2013 Finalist Selection
Mid-August, 2013 Finalist Notification

Project Selection Panel:
The Denver Union Station Selection Panel is comprised of thirteen voting members and additional non-voting advisors.

Selection Process:
Between three to five artists/artist teams may be selected as semi-finalists. Those selected will receive more specific information regarding the site and have the opportunity to meet with the design team and public art staff members. The Selection Panel will interview and/or review proposals from the semi-finalists and recommend finalists for the commission. The final recommendation of the Selection Panel will be presented to the Denver Union Station Project Authority Board and the Denver Regional Transportation District Board. All decisions of the Denver Union Station Project Authority are final.

Materials to be Submitted:
Please read this section carefully. Incomplete applications will NOT be considered without exception. The applicant's name must appear on all materials submitted.

All materials must be submitted online, via the CaFÉ™ website (www.callforentry.org). There is no application fee to apply or to use the CaFÉ™ online application system.

Digital Images:
In order to be considered for this project, the applicant must electronically submit eight digital images of previously completed artworks through the CaFÉ™ system. Artists who wish to submit kinetic, sound or media works must submit a complete CaFÉ™ application including eight still images and written materials and then send an additional DVD of no more than five minutes to:

Denver Arts & Venues
Public Art Program: Denver Union Station
Attn: Michael Chavez
1245 Champa Street
Denver, CO 80204

Statement of Interest:
Please submit a statement of interest that briefly outlines your interest in the Denver Union Station project and experience working on projects of this kind (2000 character maximum) via CaFÉ™.

Résumé:
Submit a one- to two-page current résumé, via CaFÉ™ that highlights your professional accomplishments as an artist. Please name your résumé file accordingly: Last name.First initial (i.e. Smith.J.doc). Résumés over two pages will not be downloaded. If applying as a team, please submit one résumé with one to two pages per team member.

More from the Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Union Station-booted model-railroad club will make a stop at History Colorado."



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