Art finds crossroads in ‘concrete couch’ at Bear Creek Park overlook

       An overlook has been receiving creative touches in stone and concrete along the Canyon Park/Bear Creek Trail in Bear Creek Regional Park over the past several months. With flagstones in the foreground, the recently completed 
“concrete couch” can be seen at an overlook in Bear Creek
Regional Park. Many of the stones have sayings on them. 
Can you find the sculpted face?
Westside Pioneer photo
       The work can be viewed by the public now, although Manitou Springs artist Steve Wood, leader of the group art effort through a new non-profit organization called Concrete Couch, said the official opening for the project will be this fall.
       Located next to the trail about a quarter-mile west of the park's pavilion and athletic fields off 21st Street, the overlook has been ornamented with a stone bench structure and a series of pathways set with flagstones. The bench is highlighted with concrete shaping inset with colored glass. A custom-made sundial is to be added in a week or so.
       “It's a great place to stop, with a great view,” said Wood, who is well known for public art in such places as Manitou Springs City Hall and Soda Springs Park. “Hopefully people will go there and follow the pathways.”
       A core group of about 10 people have been involved in the effort, which, depending on the person and the moment, has a theme of “crossroads' or “journeys.” Several of these individuals are military veterans Wood met through an Outward Bound project; however, the theme is unrelated to war or national security. The “couch” provides views in about a 280-degree range and the 40 or so stones are etched with quotes that various members of the group selected from such diverse sources as Robert Louis Stevenson, the Talmud, Mark Twain and the Band.
       Wood said one of the reasons he enjoyed the effort was because the participants “had no fear of looking silly, which is a prerequisite for doing art.”
       His explanatory letter to the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board states: “The theme for the project is 'crossroads,' and we will be seeking to give perspective and contemplation to the crossroads each of us must pass through on our journey through life.”
       For Vietnam veteran Rick George, the project was a chance to get back to being creative. “I've always been involved in art and music,” he said during a recent workday at the site. “But I haven't done much of that since I was young. A lot of Vietnam vets become reclusive. It was time to get out of the house and out of myself.”
       For Shawn Yaryan, who served six years in the Navy (including service on a nuclear submarine in the Persian Gulf War theater), “the overall message is journeys.”
       “The ideas came from them,” Wood said. “They didn't want a memorial; they wanted something kids and adults could go to and see something unique in.”
       Although he was guiding the project, he said he tried to let the project flow in response to the creative spirit of the volunteers. “It keeps people involved,” he said. “You don't want to say that something is already decided.”
       Materials were largely donated. Before starting, Wood worked with his volunteers on applicable fundamentals. They then labored in the roughly 25 by 25-foot area on a weekly basis through the spring, tweaking the plan at times based on new ideas they would get.
       The project looks done now, but Wood and the group are still thinking about it and have decided, as he said, to “give it a breather for the summer.” One desired enhancement is landscaping. Wood has been talking with County Parks officials - who had to approve the project plan initially - about possible plantings to dress up the site. Also, he wants to see how the work weathers between now and the fall. “We'll let the summer do its thing, with rainstorms and the heat,” he said.
       After that, who knows? Someone in the group might come up with another new idea.

Westside Pioneer article