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 Tuesday, October 13, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Discover CU-Boulder’s public art and memorial markers
by Melanie O. Massengale

In 2005, the CU Cartography Lab of the department of geography produced a brochure entitled Heritage Series: Norlin Quadrangle Memorial Map: Memorials and Public Art of the CU-Boulder Campus, Historic District, a location guide intended to “highlight the sites and memorials of people, events, and places that have shaped and given character to the campus.”

From a scale model of the solar system and Norlin Library’s sundial to the bronze plaque dedicated to Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka, just northwest of the Engineering Center, public artworks, memorials and markers are many and diverse on the CU-Boulder campus. Currently, the memorials and markers program is overseen by the office of the campus landscape architect, and maintenance is performed by the Facilities Management operations staff.

Alan Nelson, senior grounds specialist in outdoor services for the department of facilities management, has been involved with marker maintenance on the campus since 1986. “If I had to pick a favorite aesthetic, it would be the lion head fountain spouts on the west side of Norlin Library," he said. There’s another fountain at Sewall in honor of Bly Ewalt Curtis, a director of housing for over 30 years. The Sewall fountain has two lions with mouths that spout water.

Marker maintenance is not without its changes and challenges, according to Nelson. “We are installing cast metal benches for memorials now, where in the past they were usually made of wood," he said. "Plaques are more durable now since we use cast bronze. These are mounted on a stone or concrete base.“

Nelson, who also conducts the popular semi-annual CU Heritage Center Campus Tree Walk, prefers the trees as memorial markers to the plaques and benches. “I’ve been a party to 50 or more planting ceremonies in various campus locations with friends or family of someone who has passed,” he said. “You pick up that emotion from the people who are there. When I’m gone, I’d like to have a tree somewhere on campus—I just want the people who know me to know it’s there.”

Copies of the original Heritage Series Map brochure can still be obtained at the Heritage Center. “We especially want to have it available for family members wanting to track down the location of a specific memorial,” said Kay Oltmans, center director.

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