by Marlena Antonucci
photos by Carmille Garcia
An active community garden at Polston Elementary School was the seed, which grew into a farm park, along the Rio Grande Corridor in Alamosa, Colorado. After Polston Elementary closed in 2008, maintaining and expanding the community garden became an opportunity to ensure that the land, its river access, trails, prime agricultural soils, and sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains were secured as a community asset. The Rio Grande Farm Park was then born out of community desire and planning, as an innovative and multi-use park that fosters an equitable local food system, and restores the health of the people, community, economy, and ecosystem along the Rio Grande.
While still in an early phase of park development, the Rio Grande Farm Park is in the process of commissioning multiple public artworks to be installed on the land. This project ensures that ecologically conscious art will help convey the Farm Park’s core values of Preservation and Creation: the preservation of the San Luis Valley’s agricultural heritage, precious water resources, and open public spaces; and the creation of economic development, healthy living practices, and educational opportunities.
The deadline for the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) just closed on the Call for Entry website (callforentry.org). The Farm Park’s diverse selection committee is commissioning sculptures or objects that can be physically engaged as seating elements. Like the creation of the farm park, the process of commissioning public artworks relies on community involvement and--even at this early stage--the commission has brought passionate makers from across the San Luis Valley together to discuss what the role of public art is and how it can benefit our community.
An information session was held on October 11th, 2017 at the Rio Grande Farm Park, designed as a conversation with local and regional artists who are interested in applying for the project. The event began with a tour of the Rio Grande Farm Park. Afterwards, participants sat down at the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition office to review the Request for Qualifications and discuss the project in more detail.
The session was organized to provide answers to local artists' questions about the submission process, and it quickly became clear that this community is interested in also growing this project together. Folks in attendance of the info session stayed long after the Q&A, and the conversation turned to growing a stronger coalition of artists in the San Luis Valley. The public art information session uncovered a collective desire to bring local artists together. The Rio Grande Farm Park is not simply commissioning public art, it is also growing an alliance of artists connected with community.
In the next step of this process, the selection committee will invite artists to submit a Request for Proposals. This will be accompanied with studio visits, public art walks, and roundtable discussions focused on fostering an awareness and appreciation of the public artists in the San Luis Valley. Keep your eyes peeled for events to come!