When Boulder announced this week that the word "Yes!" will be installed in tall, red, aluminum characters on the outside of the public library, those involved in selecting the piece praised it as "exhilarating," "delightful" and "iconic."
But for many people, there's only one thought Yes! calls to mind: No.
"There's more to art than enthusiasm and crayons," said Heather Perkins, a local writer and artist. "The color, the font — it doesn't jibe with the rest of the library. It's just ugly."
Public art will invariably draw criticism, but Yes!, having beaten out 366 other project concepts, and now operating with a budget of $150,000, got a nearly unanimous thumbs-down from more than a dozen Boulder Public Library patrons interviewed Wednesday.
Boulder's Barbara League worries the piece, which will go on the building's curved, glass wall facing Arapahoe Avenue, will obscure an otherwise pleasant view.
"Why would you do that to some beautiful clear glass?" she said. "Can't we just enjoy looking outside?"
University of Colorado sophomore Jillian Goodwin takes issue with the font.
"It seems a little blunt, with the sharp edges and the bright red," she said.
Others, like Boulder's Nick Jaiser, aren't even comfortable filing Yes! under "art."
"No, this isn't art at all," he said. "How about a sculpture? A big old bronze?"
Those who helped choose Yes! aren't entirely surprised by some of the backlash.
"We knew we'd get a variety of responses no matter what piece was selected," said Anna Lull, one of six people on a panel that comprised two artists, two library commissioners, an architect and the director of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lull said the project was selected for being provocative and because of the overwhelmingly positive impression made by its designers, Miami-based artists Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar.
The negative feedback, Lull added, is a natural part of any art-related dialogue.
"Hopefully, the art creates conversations," she said.
One common argument in favor of Yes! is that it fits well with Boulder's collectively happy, can-do disposition.
"It's important to establish a strong and positive understanding and use of art to support the positive atmosphere we have in this town," Boulder's Bob Rouse said. "Yes! certainly feels that way. It's promoting a kind of feeling that the town as a whole expresses."
Felicia Furman, who joined Lull on the panel, said Marquardt and Behar "have captured Boulder's vision of itself."
The critics, however, aren't as upset with the message as they are with the delivery.
"Yes, it reflects the city's positive attitude," Goodwin said, "but it's not very pretty."
The project won't be finished until November, officials said, so there's still time to tweak it.
Matt Chasansky, manager of Boulder's Office of Arts & Cultural Services, said his office wants to ensure that the view from the library isn't compromised by the project and that the characters of Yes!, which will be illuminated from within, aren't in contrast to the neighborhood.
"We want it to be a complement," he said. "It's a big piece, it's out in the public and it's got a big impact. We take that very seriously and want to make sure it's going to work well."
Chasansky stopped short of saying Yes! would be a permanent installation, but he made clear a desire to keep it around for a while.
"It may not be there forever, and it may move and it may go away," he said, "but the idea is to keep it as a legacy for the community."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness at 303-473-1389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.