Anythink installations aim to bring nature closer

Architectural artist Jayson Fann wrapping up work on new explorable spaces

Scott Taylor
Posted 8/2/21

The new art structures at the back of three of Anythink Library’s branches may be made from vastly different kinds of wood but they share one thing - a sense of wonder with natural patterns. …

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Anythink installations aim to bring nature closer

Architectural artist Jayson Fann wrapping up work on new explorable spaces


The new art structures at the back of three of Anythink Library’s branches may be made from vastly different kinds of wood but they share one thing - a sense of wonder with natural patterns.

“Each kind of wood has its own vocabulary in terms of how it moves and the kinds of things you can do with it,” Artist Jayson Fann said. “Eucalyptus saplings are very flexible when they are green. You can bend them and shape them and when they dry, they dry rock hard.”

Fann is wrapping up the first part of his summer Spirit Nest residency at the library district, building three different wooden sculptures meant to be climbed on and explored at the Brighton, Wrights Farm and Bennett library branches. At least three more of his works are in progress, all part of the library district’s “mySummer” program.

The idea for the library district’s summer program began last fall while the state was still in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown and pandemic quarantines. Suzanne McGowan, Anythink's MySummer intiative manager, said Anythink staff begins planning the next summer’s reading program each September, and September 2020 presented some challenges for them.

“Last year, with the pandemic, we gave out more of an activity kit and that was very popular,” McGowan said. “This year, our intention was to have a connection to nature and art in a way that was different. We didn’t know what was going to happen but we wanted to focus on getting outside.”

Anythink has hosted dozens of back-to-nature programs, she said.

“But it’s one thing to bring birds and stuff and science to the library,” she said. “What we wanted to build that moment of wonder and recovery and healing and the connection to nature that you get walking in nature, as opposed to learning about rocks and what-not.”

She said they were intrigued by Fann and his previous works.

“We found we had similar ideas,” she said. “He’s worked with other groups around the country that believe in play and ecosystems. And so, we hired him, and the experience now is becoming part of the creative process.”

Fann’s works will become permanent features at the library branches. He’s completed installations at the Wrights Farm branch in Thornton, the branch in Bennett and was planning to finish the Brighton branch’s project in the first week of August. Then, he’ll return to his California studio and return in a few months with pieces for the Commerce City and Huron Street branches. He also has plans to build a mobile version that library staff can take to special community events.

Community connections

The library system has hosted numerous presentations with Fann this summer, letting residents talk about what they think should influence his vision and things for them to keep in mind.

“We have been part of his process and he has spent a lot of time connecting with the communities and hearing about the communities,” she said. “For example, one of the things with the bamboo in Brighton is the connection to the Japanese-American community. So, this is part of the inspiration for that, as a Japanese tea house.”

Fann said he doesn’t imagine his Brighton structure will be used for tea but imagines residents young and old will visit it to explore. He also figures it will be a backdrop or stage for future concerts or performances at the library.

“Ultimately what this is, it’s an exploration of bamboo music and architecture,” he said. “This is a performance space — not just for music and architecture but all the culture that pertains to bamboo. Bamboo is global, it grows all over the world and it’s one of the oldest used materials.”

He plans to use an etching device to carve smartphone-readable symbols into the bamboo stalks. People can scan the symbols and be directed to information about how bamboo is used around the globe.

“You take a picture with your phone and it sends you Venezuela, where people are playing music with bamboo instruments, ” Fann said. “If you take a picture of another, it takes you to Japan.”

Building along the Platte

Fann grew up along the Platte River in Nebraska. That’s where he got his start into his peculiar art, scrounging scrap wood to make tree houses and forts to play in.

“I gathered wood out of the river for building forts,” he said. “All my neighbors were builders, so I’d watch them building fireplaces or just working on their houses. I’m from that pre-Internet generation. That’s what we did.”

He traveled as a percussionist and drummer for a while, studying music around the world and teaches.

He now lives in Big Sur, in California’s Monterey County but the influence for his projects comes from around the world.

“The way I relate to architecture is much like someone might think of writing a musical composition or tuning and instrument,” Fann said. “It’s the placement of notes – which might be the poles in the structure – and the framework.”

It’s more than just art or architecture, Fann said. He’s also a drummer who’s performed around the world. That influence comes across in his projects, with strong bases surrounded by interwoven patterns.

“Nature is really the predominant influence and how it interacts with natural forms,” Fann said.

Here for now

The summer of 2021 has been a busy one for him, he said. It’s had him traveling between his home in California through Colorado to Kentucky and back.

He’s tried to vary the materials he uses among the Anythink branches. The installation at the Perl Mac branch was carved from a single gigantic piece of redwood scrap he salvaged in California.

“That’s a piece of two to 3,000-year-old piece of wood, and I was able to get access to one section of it,” he said.

He left the log’s patina in place and used a high-pressure water sprayer to carve patterns into the wood.

“People asked me what kind of paint I used on that,” he said. “That’s not paint.”

The piece he recently completed in Bennett is made from Cottonwood logs pulled from the Kiowa River.

“It’s a storytelling space, and you could fit 40 kids in there,” he said. “Each piece is fitted together, like a puzzle. Other parts are hollowed out and they can use them for planters.”

The tall, narrow tower he built for the back area at Thornton’s Wright Farms branch is made from California Eucalyptus. It’s a fragrant, durable wood that lends itself to that kind of swirling, layered design.

“I really appreciate eucalyptus because it has a such beautiful form,” he said.

Brighton’s structure will be a sort of tea house built from bamboo. He’s nearly finished building the metal-supported base structure utilizing thick canes of bamboo. Thinner stalks of the plant will be woven into that structure, giving the finished piece his signature layers and whorls.

“This is not explicitly a teahouse as much as it’s a celebration of bamboo in music and architecture,” he said. “There is so much to it, so many things you can do with it. We wanted to highlight this.”


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