Principal investigators
Martha Russo; Bruce Price

Collaboration + support
College of Engineering and Applied Science; The Idea Forge; Department of Art and Art History; Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences; Program in Environmental Design; Research & Innovation Office

Rendering detail of concrete frieze

Rendering of underpass

Rubber molds

Martha Russo and Bruce Price in an pedestrian underpassA large-scale campus collaboration is underway to visually pay homage to the significant contributions CU Boulder has made to space exploration. The SpaceTime Underpass project will be a permanent public art installation inside a key campus pedestrian underpass on Regent Drive.

A team of CU Boulder students, faculty and staff from art and art history, environmental design and engineering are working together on the project, which is spearheaded by Martha Russo, an installation artist and CU Boulder art instructor, and led by Denver artist Bruce Price.

“What’s fantastic working with the students is that everybody is so excited about it,” Russo said. “I feel like we’ve created a community around this project.”

Russo teaches a course called Art, Design & Engineering: Cross-Disciplinary Thinking and Making. Students in the class are at the core of the design and fabrication teams working with local professional art fabricators in Boulder and Denver.

The underpass project tells a story of space that might seem predictable and turns it into instances of surprise and delight.

The space theme for the underpass dovetails with the location of nearby Fiske Planetarium and the scale model solar system, a memorial to astronaut Ellison Onizuka, a CU graduate who died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The underpass is positioned between the Mars and Jupiter sculptures, which is where the asteroid belt in our solar system is located.

Influenced by the university’s legacy of space exploration, the underpass will be fitted with colored concrete relief panels textured with 3-D topographical imagery of the surface of the dwarf planet Vesta, located in the asteroid belt. The concrete frieze will have a repeating pattern based on the three large craters on Vesta. The names of CU alumni, faculty and staff who have advanced CU Boulder’s contributions to space science and exploration will be engraved on the frieze.

As a reference to the silence of space, a circular stainless-steel disc will be attached to the ceiling of the underpass alluding to the enigmatic, avant-garde piece by experimental composer John Cage. Titled 4’33” (pronounced 4 minutes, 33 seconds), the composition has no music—only silence.

The idea for the SpaceTime Underpass project was conceived in Russo’s interdisciplinary art, design and engineering class composed of students in studio arts, environmental design, engineering, business and communication. Students learned about sculpture, with an emphasis on making and installing large-scale public art.

Russo had asked artist Bruce Price to help develop a group project with her students. Price encouraged students to draw inspiration from three themes—geology, digital media and conviviality—when conceptualizing their art project. Students picked Pluto, digital fabrication processes using laser cutters and CNC machines, and music by John Cage.

The Regent underpass is a high-traffic east entrance to a pedestrian path that extends across campus. When the university is in session, more than 3,000 people use the underpass each day. Projected installation is June 2020.