‘A Journey to a Euphoric Encounter’: Visitors to James Turrell’s Latest ‘Skyspace’ Must Hike Up a Mountain in Colorado to See It
It's the artist's first mountainside "Skyspace."
Light and Space artist James Turrell is unveiling his latest “Skyspace”—a series of chambers with ceilings that open up to the sky—on the side of a mountain in Colorado.
The project, commissioned by the Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation, is the centerpiece of the town’s Green Box Arts Festival, which opens this weekend, and will be a permanent installation.
Titled after the Colorado town where it resides, Green Mountain Falls Skyspace, joins more than 85 other “Skyspace” installations built around the world, but it’s the first one situated on the side of a mountain, as well as the first in Colorado.
“I was excited to work with the deeper blue of the high altitude Rocky Mountain sky,” Turrell told Town and Country.
Billed as “an instant pilgrimage destination,” Green Mountain Falls Skyspace aims to offer visitors a contemplative, meditative experience.
To reach the 18-foot-tall structure, which is near Colorado Springs, visitors must traverse a new half-mile trail on Red Butte Mountain, blazed specifically for the project.
“We envisioned an experience that included a small hike (accessible to all) that served as a journey to a euphoric encounter of art in nature,” Green Box co-founder Larry Keigwin told Artnet News in an email. “Needless to say, the finished work is more than we could have ever imagined.”
The project came together remarkably quickly; the groundbreaking was in late April 2021. (Especially in light of Turrell’s long-running attempt to turn Arizona’s Roden Crater into an artwork, which he has been working on since 1979, and is currently slated to open in 2024.)
“The site itself was the most challenging part of building and installing the artwork, such as getting the concrete, natural stone, and other materials up the side of the butte,” Green Box executive director Scott Levy said, noting that the weather and material delays also presented difficulties. Construction required transporting 1.2 million pounds of concrete and 100,000 pounds of steel up the mountain.
Green Mountain Falls Skyspace is one of the rare “Skyspaces” to be equipped with a retractable roof on its oculus, which protects the artwork from inclement weather, and allows Turrell to present engineered light shows at any time of day.
There will be timed shows at sunrise and sunset and closed-roof shows, daily though July 4, and on Thursdays through Sundays until the end of September. Admission to the shows is $5, but you can visit for free the rest of the day. (Guests with mobility issues can arrange for vehicular transport with Green Box to access the work.)
Nestled amid the pine trees, at a scenic viewpoint overlooking the town and Gazebo lake, the installation merges seamlessly with the surrounding landscape and fresh mountain air. The piece serves as a naked-eye observatory, augmenting the natural beauty by framing the ever-changing sky within its borders.
“Each individual will experience the ‘Skyspace’ in their own way,” Levy said, “but personally, the reward of being enveloped in the artwork following the elevated heart rate from the hike, enhances my own reflection and calming nature that the ‘Skyspace’ experience provides.”
The Green Box Arts Festival in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, is June 18–July 4, 2022. Tickets for the “Skyspace” shows are currently available through the end of July; tickets for August will be released on July 1.
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