A student of art, architecture and environmental design, Ken Bernstein graduated from the University of Colorado with a Fine Arts degree in 1975. His interdisciplinary education laid a strong foundation for his career as a public artist, an arena in which art impacts and interacts with the built environment and its surroundings.
Bernstein has been creating art commissions for the public as well as private art clients for over 25 years. Designing in a variety of media including steel, stone, ceramics, glass, glass mosaics and paint, his art integrates and embellishes interior and exterior spaces with durable creations that include sculpture, tile, mosaic and painted murals.
His awards and grants include Federal Highways Administration’s Exemplary Human Environment Initiative, for the 28th Street Central Corridor redevelopment project Boulder, Colorado; grants from the Boulder Art Commission, the Colorado Council for the Arts, the Science and Cultural Facilities District, the Milash Foundation and the Boulder Library Foundation.
The first phase in the design process is to dialogue with the client’s design team about their needs. We discuss who is going to be using the space, what they will be doing there, how the client wants people to feel when they are there, and what the team hopes that an art component will add to the overall feeling and design of the space.
The next phase of the process involves researching the history of the designated community or institution and an in-depth study of site plans and architectural designs. Now, the creative phase begins. Preliminary sketches lead to Photoshop drawings and 3D modeling. Depending on the requirements of each project, a structural engineer and a lighting designer may be consulted, and presentation materials are created.
The public art proposal is then presented to the client’s design team. Upon approval of the design concept, the final design phase begins. This may involve engaging a structural engineer and lighting designer to create shop drawings for the artwork. Final designs are presented to the committee, and upon approval, fabrication begins.
Many components of the projects are created within Ken Bernstein Art Studio. The Studio also engages talented artisans such as metal sculptors and fabricators, stonemasons, carpenters and tile installers; building contractors may also be engaged to create infrastructure.
Art in public places can heighten awareness of the environment and enliven one’s experience. It elevates the purely functional, which is often invisible, or worse, disengaging, into an engaging visible world. It creates a sense of place, bringing the observer into the present moment to recognize where they are and offering a unique perspective on and about a community. This is a very valuable function in our cookie cutter tract home/shopping mall world. It integrates the beauty of architecture and urban landscape with the intimate human experience.
Art promotes a feeling of wellbeing in a city space and contributes to the health of the individual and the community. Art can uplift, inspire, provoke, and entertain. It can also create a deep beauty, a contemplative space for quiet and peaceful reflection. Art can remind us of injustice and empower us to experience our grief with compassion and caring. Art is creative expression, and no thought, feeling, or emotion is out of its bounds. At its best, art opens the heart and mind to the radiance that underlies all living things.