MOVING ON: Iliff Station public art removed for structural integrity

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AURORA | Regular commuters at Iliff Station have probably noticed that, since late August, the site of a towering public art installation has been gathering dust. 

That’s when the city removed a skyscraping sculpture, “On the Move 1.” 

“On the Move 1” had lived up to its namesake. At 32 feet tall, the installation of eight aluminum shards stretched toward the heavens, adorned in shimmering discs.  

On The Move 1 was recently removed from the Iliff station after crews noticed, during routine maintenance, that certain welding points in the structure were beginning to lose their integrity. File Photo

The piece even hummed in the breeze. But this fall, a city-commissioned look at its structural integrity found the towers were at dangerous risk of toppling over. 

City council members voted Nov. 16 to officially remove the sculpture from the city’s cache of public art. 

The decision was touted by Roberta Bloom, Aurora’s public art coordinator, as the most cost-efficient course of action. But the move to decommission “On the Move 1” also earned the blessing of its creator, California-based artist Goron Huether. 

Huether didn’t respond to an interview request from the Sentinel. According to Bloom, Huether had “lost faith in this piece and would like to replace it.” It was a matter of “public safety.”

Since Sept. 2016, visitors to the RTD light rail station near East Iliff Avenue and Interstate 225 would have walked past the eye-catching creation before jumping on a light rail train. The city had purchased the piece from Huether for $250,000 as part of a city-wide public art campaign intended to spruce up the city’s RTD stations. 

The city also shelled out $60,000 for a companion piece, “On the Move 2.” That sculpture still stands at the entrance to Iliff Station’s parking garage. It’s a smaller piece, topping out at just 12 feet, comprised of glass discs suspended between aluminum planks. These discs, too, turn with the wind.  

On his website, Huether says the outdoor art series mimics the dynamic qualities of Colorado’s own Rocky Mountains. 

He saw the Rockies “not as a motionless phenomenon, but as a constantly ‘shape shifting’ presence in the lives of Aurora citizens,” his website reads.

Huether says the setting of the sun, brewing storm clouds and ridges topped with snow all alter the appearance of the region’s great peaks. So too do his sculptures “transform in response to natural elements, like sunlight, wind and weather.”

“On the Move 1” braved blazing sun, wind and winter squalls for almost four years. But the bell finally tolled when crews conducting routine maintenance found key welds were degrading in the elements. 

The city commissioned an audit that found joints holding up the shards were only welded on three sides and were 90% fractured. Luckily, the towers had been fabricated with metal rods inside of them. These supports, not the welds, appeared to be preventing “catastrophic failure.”

On Aug. 21, a city contractor removed the installation — no small feat, considering the thing was almost three stories tall. It’s since been housed in storage at a cost of $500 per month to the city.

Bloom and city staff ultimately recommended that “On the Move 1” should never return to Iliff Station. It would have cost $55,000 to re-weld, brace and re-install the piece, according to city documents. City-hired engineers also recommended shaving off about two feet from its height if it were to overlook the rail hub. 

With Huether’s blessing — his engineer also recommended the piece should come down — “On the Move 1” will now be destroyed, ending its four-year run adorning Iliff Station. Bloom said it will be cut into pieces and hauled to a nearby metal recycling facility.

“On the Move 2” will continue to carry on Huether’s intent with the project. From its perch near the parking garage, it continues its business reflecting the elements and responding happily to the breeze.

City staff said they are now negotiating with Huether to replace “On the Move 1” with something better suited to the site. The new piece should be of greater or equal value, according to city council documents.

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