COLORADO SPRINGS — Located in the heart of Southern Colorado society, there exists another, smaller community; a living art project with people and plans, all rendered in miniature but working to affect life at large.
Utopia is an art installation that moves and grows in accordance to its citizenry, real people with real lives who have signed on to the exhibition, determining what happens next in this futuristic microcosm. The actual piece takes the shape of a massive diorama with water and land features and filled to the brim with houses and people.
Starting three years ago, the project has expanded from a mere handful of residents to now encompass and support a population of about 80. Each individual, or family, lovingly recreated and painted by artist and orchestrator of this living installation, Becky Wareing Steele.
"I kind of view my work as this low-tech virtual reality," commented Becky, "where there are these alternate spaces but they still exist in reality."
The Denver-based artist created the piece to foster community and explore topics regarding not only how to build an ideal society in this scaled down reality, but also how to better the real world in realistic ways.
My hope for this project and for the take away when people come to see it in its physical form, is that they start to form perhaps their own ideas as to what their personal utopia would look like.
And then also [I hope they] figure out ways that they can implement those things in their day to day lives to help make small changes in their communities that I think can really echo on a larger, global scale.
The diorama will remain at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center through the beginning of November. Visitors can view the project as well as choose to register as a citizen of the tiny, reality-adjacent world.
According to Becky, the only requirements to become a citizen is a willingness to respect the others involved as well as a dedication to take part in the voting process that helps to shape the installation's physical attributes as well as its lore.
Over the course of the project, residents have voted on measures that would increase safety, provide care for the elderly, and determine crop growth. Residents have also collaborated on creating an anthem and flag for the lilliputian society.
When the project leaves Colorado Springs, Utopia will experience another massive population surge, Steele already reporting that approximately 30 new people have signed up to participate in the project.
"I think she's going to see more interactions honestly," commented Drew Austin, a resident of the project, "which will lead to more dialogue and more community decision making. So I think that the more people we get involved and the longer it goes on, the more successful the project is going to be."
In regards to how long the project can continue, Wareing Steele is curious as well. "It's not just my vision and my voice. There are at least 80 other people from around the country as well as around the world represented, so it's kind of this common voice coming through."
Her hope is that the project will continue to travel from site to site, inspiring conversations on how to better our world and contribute to our communities wherever it goes.