As most of you know, The Hanzon Foundation has been in a bit of a battle. Lonnie Hanzon has been forced to defend the integrity and future of his most famous local artwork, Evolution of the Ball.
Click here to read the recent Westword article.
This struggle has highlighted a variety of interesting discussions. What are the rights of a public art artist? Who truly owns a work of art? How do we want public spaces to be? Is progress always best?
Personally, while going through the archives of Evolution of the Ball, I have been reminded of the excitement that surrounded the building of Coors Field. Even if you weren’t a baseball fan, the creation of the stadium completely changed lower downtown and made it a place to be, rather than a scary place to avoid. We felt united in that enthusiasm and for many of us, the public art that was designed for the stadium was the cherry on top of a new delicious sundae. It was the combination of a sports loving town with an arts loving public.
So what has changed? Well, we could blame it on the simple fact that needs, desires, and tastes are constantly in flux and always have been. Our perspectives are constantly evolving. For example, did you know that many people truly hated the Eiffel Tower when it was built? The thought it looked unfinished, and the skeletal and structural aspect we now find iconic, was completely ridiculed. Did you also know that it was originally painted red and may be painted its original color once more? How does that change your perception and feelings about one of the most famous public monuments in the world?
I came across a letter in the archives that really struck me and brought this changing of perspective to the forefront of my mind. It was a recommendation letter from Thomas J. Gleason for Lonnie Hanzon. Gleason was the former deputy director of the Denver Metropolitan Stadium District. He states how he was originally concerned about the choice of Lonnie’s sculpture for one of the main entrances to Coors Field; his reason being that fans may have expected something more traditional. He claims, “To my delight, and to their credit, those baseball fans quickly demonstrated an appreciation for the whimsical element that sculpture added to the Coors Field experience.” He goes on to call it a “magnet” for people all year round. What an incredible example of someone changing their own perspective and seeing through other peoples’ eyes.
Throughout this battle, I have continued to hope that the people in charge of the new development, the Stadium District, and the Rockies would go through a similar transformation. That they would learn about what is at the heart of Evolution of the Ball and the intricate, thoughtful, symbolic design behind every element. Do they know that there are time capsules held within each ball? Have they seen the personal letter from Lucy Arnaz giving permission for her mother’s likeness on the piece? Would that change their perspective and let them see the value of the public sculpture?
As a teacher, one of my favorite moments was when I could watch a student’s thoughts about a work of art change before my eyes. One example is a work by Piet Mondrian. When I first show it to students, they would typically recognize the Mondrian style of primary colors and straight lines. Many would exclaim how they found this art simplistic and simply “didn’t get it” or any other abstract art. But when I told them the title, Broadway Boogie-Woogie, you could watch the change in their eyes. You could literally see their mind turn those little yellow squares into taxi cabs and their perspective become one of a bird or plane flying high over Manhattan looking down at the bustling streets.
We are still hoping for a change in perspective and for an opening of hearts and minds with Evolution of the Ball. The Foundation will keep you updated on all events via Facebook, this website, and now on Instagram.
Thanks so much to all of you that have aided us in this fight. We are extremely grateful for the donations, Facebook posts, and recommendations.
Director of The Hanzon Foundation