Carbondale Arts Receives Federal Sculpture Grant from Youth Art Park

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

A contribution from the federal Grants for Arts Projects fund is only part of the “collage” of funding sources for Carbondale’s Youth Art Park, but it is 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 built along the Rio Grande Trail at the Carbondale Recreation Center. The grant is for the “Unity/Unidad” sculpture being built by landscape architecture group Carbondale re:LAND. Company director and owner and lead designer of the project, Nicholas DiFrank, said the value of the grant is largely validation of the project.

“The communities that receive these grants are really able to show not just a need, but also a thought and an awareness not only in the presentation of the project, but the kind of project itself,” DiFrank said. “The actual DNA of this project has to have a very good foundation, but also a very transparent process, and I’ll use the words ‘good intentions’.”

The sculpture the grant will go to is a concrete silhouette of Mount Sopris, which it will line up with at certain angles. At one end of the sculpture will be cutouts of the word “unity” and its Spanish translation, “unidad”.

At the other end will be a smooth concrete “canvas” on which a new mural will be painted each year by the local upper classes. A statement from Carbondale Arts called the sculpture “the backbone of the youth art park at the heart of Carbondale’s creative district”.

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

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

The release says the project was created to be “a landing place for all, a place that balances healthy minds and bodies and connects art and play.”

The design of the park is the result of a collaboration between DiFrank, local artists and students from Carbondale Middle School.

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

“We’re already so in love with Carbondale – so many people are,” DiFrank said. “I think (the park) instills more creativity and a belief that people come together for a common good. This is just a small piece of this puzzle.

Wardell estimated that the park will be completed in the fall of 2023, but cautioned about increased delays due to continued rising prices for materials and labor.

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


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