Carbondale Arts receives federal grant for Youth Art Park sculpture |

Carbondale Arts receives federal grant for Youth Art Park sculpture

A rendering of the upcoming “Unity/Unidad” sculpture at the Carbondale Youth Art Park.
Courtesy photo/re:LAND

A contribution from the federal Grants for Arts Projects award fund is only a part of the “collage” of funding sources for Carbondale’s Youth Art Park, but it’s a source of inspiration and validation for the project’s leaders.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded $15,000 to Carbondale Arts for the construction of a sculpture in the upcoming park, being constructed along the Rio Grande Trail at the Carbondale Recreation Center. The grant is for the “Unity/Unidad” sculpture being built by Carbondale landscape architecture group re:LAND. Principal and owner of the company and principal designer of the project Nicholas DiFrank said the value in the grant is largely the validation of the project.

“Communities that receive these grants really are able to show not only a need but a thoughtfulness and an awareness not only in the presentation of the project, but the project genus itself,” DiFrank said. “The actual DNA of that project has to have a really great basis for it but then also a very transparent process, and I’ll use the words ‘good intentions.’”

The sculpture that the grant will go toward is a concrete silhouette of Mt. Sopris, with which it will align from certain angles. To one end of the sculpture will be cutouts of the word “unity” and its Spanish translation, “unidad.”

To the other end will be a smooth concrete “canvas,” on which a new mural will be painted each year by local senior classes. A release from Carbondale Arts called the sculpture “the backbone of the Youth Art Park within the heart of the Carbondale Creative District.”

“It’s definitely been a focal point of Carbondale Arts and the Carbondale Creative District for a long time,” Carbondale Arts Operations and Development Manager Kellyn Wardell said. “We really wanted to create another place where people can come and connect and play and learn outside.”

The art park is the third installment of the Rio Grande ARTway, joining DeRail park at Colorado Highway 133 and the Latinx Folk Art Garden at Seventh Street. The final product of the park will include a rock climbing wall, slide and outdoor auditorium in addition to the sculpture, Wardell said.

The release said that the project was created to be “a landing place for all, one which provides a balance between healthy minds and bodies and a connection of art and play.”

Design for the park came from a collaboration between DiFrank, local artists and Carbondale Middle School students.

Nearly seven years after the idea for the park was conceived, construction on its centerpiece is slated to begin later in the spring following pandemic-related delays.

“We’re already so in love with Carbondale — so many folks are,” DiFrank said. “I think (the park) further instills creativity and just the belief of people coming together for a common good. It’s just one little piece of that puzzle.”

Wardell estimated the park will be completed in fall 2023, but cautioned about increased delays from continued price hikes on materials and labor.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or

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