Ogden hopes art work creates pedestrian corridor

Tuesday , August 05, 2014 - 7:55 PM

OGDEN — As a Chicago native who landed in Ogden by way of Weber State University, Vanessa Gromek wanted to make a mark on the city she’s now spent eight years in.

The final pieces of that vision fell into place this week. The mark Gromek speaks of can now be seen suspended in air, floating above Kiesel Avenue between two of the city’s most important retail areas.

On Monday, Gromek installed a public art piece on Kiesel between 24th and 25th streets, a corridor that sits in the heart of Ogden and connects The Junction to Historic 25th Street, but is, in the city’s estimation, underutilized.

The project consists of 30 “kite sculptures” attached to steel wires that crisscross each other above the street. Gromek said the sculptures are designed to resemble tents as a nod to Ogden’s outdoor recreation industry. The kites are made with the same material as many tents are made with, and also features actual tent poles.

Gromek said her art piece was designed with the hope of drawing people to the important section of Kiesel.

“I wanted to spark some interest and draw attention to this street,” Gromek said Monday as she and a few workers from the city’s public works department installed the kite sculptures by using a large cherry picker. “So far, it seems to be working. People are walking by and looking over here and asking us what’s going on.”

Ogden City Special Events Director Christy McBride said the street is one of several that Ogden has identified as a place to increase pedestrian activity.

“We wanted to encourage people to cross 24th Street and use Kiesel to get over to 25th,“ McBride said. ”We hope to draw (The Junction and 25th Street) together, and we think this project will help. People who aren’t familiar with the area may not have known that they can just walk just a short block to tie those two areas together.“

McBride said the city has already made improvements to the crosswalk on 24th Street that connects pedestrians to Kiesel.

Gromek said her project was conceived while she was an art student at WSU.

“The project started at Weber State — it was my thesis,” she said . “I started playing with the idea of the outdoor industry and modern art and how they can come together.”

Gromek said that, although the concept had been in her head for quite some time, the actual execution of the project didn’t begin until early July. It took her the better part of two full days to finish installing it.

The project was commissioned by Ogden city and was paid for by the city’s “Percent for Art” fund. Ogden was the first Utah city to begin a Percent for Art program, which it adopted by ordinance in 1997. The program requires that 1 percent of eligible city capital improvement project funds are set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of art to form a public collection for the citizens of Ogden.

“A lot of times, it’s hard to get funding for art, (but) in any city or town, if art isn’t part of the fabric or part of the culture, then there is something missing,” McBride said. “Ogden has great history and we have great artists and we want to use our programs to highlight that. And not just inside of museums and galleries. Public art is important.”

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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