Client: City and County of Denver Public Art Program
Location: Denver, CO, United States
Completion date: 2020
Artwork budget: $300,000
Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang
Director of Exhibitions and Learning
Denver Botanic Gardens
Public Art Program Administrator
Denver Arts & Venues
In celebration of the art and science collections housed within the Freyer-Newman Center at the Denver Botanic Gardens, this sculpture blends the beauty of nature with the rigor of scientific inquiry. Each of its 251 cells contain a silhouette of a Colorado native plant specimen held by Denver Botanic Gardens’ Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium. Included is the identification number of that specimen, which allows anyone in the world access to information about the plant, including scientific name and where it was collected. Each specimen is a snapshot in time, capturing the biodiversity of a particular place and creating a permanent record of the past that serves as a resource to help protect our future. The sculpture also attracts visitors to the center as an oversized depiction of a leaf, an easily recognizable icon for the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Freyer-Newman Center.
Before Denver Botanic Gardens was established, the Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium of Vascular Plants was founded by local plant enthusiasts working to document the wild and cultivated flora of Colorado through scientific specimens. Now 70 years old, KHD holds nearly 70,000 specimens collected across Colorado and the greater Southern Rocky Mountain Region. The goal of this artwork was to bring the collection out into the public view, by way of a large steel leaf sculpture. This sculpture announces the entrance to the Freyer-Newman Center, where the Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium is held, and connects the collection by way of the cut-out illustrations of those specimen in the sculpture itself.
This was a tremendous collaboration between the Denver Botanic Gardens, the artist team from StudioKCA in New York City and the Denver Public Art Program. The vision was a sculpture that would highlight the new building while also connecting to the science within it's doors. The artist team was very thoughtful to connect directly to the Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium by way of the sculpture. The entire team worked on placement, lighting, selection of the specimens, and overall vision for the work. The end result is a stunning combination of art and the natural world.