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"Drift Inversion," a Denver installation created by architecture faculty Aaron Whelton and artist David Franklin, honored by Americans for the Arts
Author: School of Architecture
Posted: June 18, 2018

Drift Inversion On June 15, 2018, Americans for the Arts honored outstanding public arts projects created in 2017 through the Public Art Network Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. Chosen by public art experts, the roster of selected projects was unveiled this morning at Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention in Denver.

One of the honored projects is “Drift Inversion” (2017), by Denver-based artist David Franklin and Portland architect Aaron Whelton, an assistant professor at Portland State University School of Architecture.

“Drift Inversion” is an undulating aluminum installation in an underpass located in a developing Denver neighborhood, which was once the former grounds of Stapleton International Airport, and before that, a vast expanse of sand dunes.

The underlying dunes of this thriving metropolitan area were the inspiration for Drift Inversion, which turns the original landscape upside-down and transforms an otherwise cold and dark space into a place of wonder and warmth. Made from aluminum, paint and steel, the installation measures 18 by 128 by 32 feet.

Franklin and Whelton were inspired by a quote from John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939): “Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air: a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it. The dust was long in settling back again.”

Project Partners were Park Creek Metropolitan District, Denver Arts & Venues, Denver Parks and Recreation, Barbara Neal, Civitas and Mortensen Construction.

“The best of public art can challenge, delight, educate, and illuminate. Most of all, public art creates a sense of civic vitality in the cities, towns, and communities we inhabit and visit,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “As these Public Art Network Year in Review selections illustrate, public art has the power to enhance our lives on a scale that little else can. I congratulate the artists and commissioning groups for these community treasures, and I look forward to honoring more great works in the years to come.”

This is the 17th year that Americans for the Arts has recognized public art works. The projects selected for Year in Review can be viewed on this page and are on display throughout the Annual Convention. Three independent public art experts—Bryan Lee, Jr., director of design at Colloqate Design in New Orleans; Karen Mack, executive director of LA Commons in Los Angeles; and Denver artist Patrick Marold—discussed the trends they uncovered while examining hundreds of submissions in selecting this year’s choices for the most exemplary, innovative permanent or temporary public art works created or debuted in 2017.

Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, it has a record of more than 55 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.

The School of Architecture’s four-year bachelor’s degree, two-year accredited professional Master of Architecture and three-year track of the Master of Architecture emphasize focused study in architectural design, the humanities, tectonics and the profession, in a rich, design-based curriculum, as they prepare students for a career as a licensed architect. The Master of Architecture program concludes with the completion of a major design thesis study of individually inspired questions concerning architecture, culture and technology. The first of its kind in the United States, the Graduate Certificate in Public Interest Design is now offered through the School of Architecture’s Center for Public Interest Design.