Functional Art


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The terrazzo floors installation began in December 2006.

Dirt will be tracked in, coffee will spill, bread crumbs will fall and chewing gum will stick, but at the end of the day, the unique artwork on the floor of Boettcher Atrium always will retain its beauty and entertain the children who walk on it.

At Children's, the terrazzo floor is a matrix, consisting of a variety of glass, marble, stone, mother of pearl and plastic chips. Epoxy is the "glue" that holds it all together.

The floor is a mesmerizing maze of bright colors, intricate shapes and creative artwork. And the main inspiration for the design...kids.

The terrazzo floors installation began in December 2006. The nationally acclaimed public artist, whose work includes the artistic treatment of the B Concourse terrazzo floors at Denver International Airport and precast images on Denver's T-REX retaining wall, is Denver resident Carolyn Braaksma. She has been designing public art for more than 10 years and has experience in fine art print making, certification as a professional welder and years of construction experience as an iron worker.

Braaksma was awarded the project at Children's after a series of interviews with the art selection committee. She began work on the project in 2004.

She spent hours researching shapes, colors and characters in Children's books and history books in libraries and online. "I read stories about some of the kids who have been at Children's. We're not talking about history here, we're talking about kids," she said.

With kids in mind, she incorporated sunflowers, snowflakes, birds, fish and a variety of familiar shapes into a zigzag maze. The design entertains kids of all ages and sparks their imagination.

"I wanted to create something that they could relate to," she said. "When the hospital opens, the children will walk on it, they will look at it, and they will jump from one spot to another. They can't help it, it's their job."

Braaksma built her design from the existing color and animal scheme designed by public artist Larry Kirkland. Kirkland was chosen to be designer for the glass art on the east side of the atrium wall.

Both artists have similar public art backgrounds. Public art is often loosely defined, allowing artists to propose specific work. It is often a government-funded project, such as public buildings, public universities, airports or highway wall surfaces.

"I like public art because it's practical art-making," she said. "It fits into a larger context."

There is no special message behind Braaksma's terrazzo design at Children's. "It has to do with certain images, juxtaposed with other images and colors," she said. "This project gave me the opportunity to have more fun, use a large palette of colors and create a bright and wild design for kids," she said.

Like a puzzle, each piece has to intertwine together perfectly. Maneuvering all the pieces and staying true to the artist's hand-drawn concept can be a challenge, "but the most fun part about the project is putting all the pieces together," she said.

"At the end of the day, it's just a floor," she said. "But, the little kids will always see it and hopefully it will give them something else to think about while they are at the hospital."