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New Firehouse exhibit aims to bring viewers peace after stressful year

“I would love for people to take it as an opportunity to just slow down. And even though it feels like we've been doing that, it feels like we've been doing that in a high-stress way,” Firehouse curator Brandy Coons said. “But I think getting outside of yourself, and into a gallery space, and interacting with a work of art can hopefully encourage kind of a peaceful reflection.”
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"Flight of the Polychromatic Zooids" by Jen Rose opens next week at the Firehouse Art Center.

After a collective year of hardships that included facing the COVID-19 pandemic, a contentious presidential election and a racial reckoning, Longmont’s Firehouse Art Center is kicking off 2021 with an art installation inspired by unity.

“Flight of the Polychromatic Zooids,” a rainbow-colored installation by Dallas-based artist Jen Rose, will fill the main gallery through the first week of February. About 1,200 hand-sculpted porcelain figures in five shades of each color — orange, yellow, green, blue and purple — will be suspended from the ceiling. A one-minute song for each color by composer David Thompson will play out of five suspended speakers. The installation stretches 13 feet and stands 8 feet tall. Firehouse painted the gallery dark gray for the backdrop.

Rose was inspired by zooids, oceanic creatures that are colonial animals, or single organisms part of a larger lifeform, such as coral. 

“The piece really has to do with the idea of working as a group. So I feel like, in this moment in society, especially now … we are very isolated,” Rose said. “The name colonial gives us a lot of connotations about our own beginning as a country, but it also is the idea of working together for the common good, and also being one and many at the same time.”

Rose began working in multiples, or making several similar shapes for one art installation, after losing her father in 2016. She found the practice of making repetitive objects soothing, the same feeling she hopes viewers can gain from “Flight of the Polychromatic Zooids.”

“The actual installation is complicated but the forms themselves are all multiples of the same type of object. So there's a simplicity there that I think will be a very peaceful experience for visitors to the gallery,” said Firehouse curator Brandy Coons.

The installation was originally scheduled for August, Coons said. It was postponed because of uncertainties caused by the pandemic and needing to transport the piece from Rose’s Texas studio. 

Coons said she hopes viewers will spend a quiet meditative time while looking at the art and listening to the music. Guests are welcome to bring yoga mats, lay on the floor and gaze up at the hanging sculpture, she said.

“I would love for people to take it as an opportunity to just slow down. And even though it feels like we've been doing that, it feels like we've been doing that in a high-stress way,” Coons said. “But I think getting outside of yourself, and into a gallery space, and interacting with a work of art can hopefully encourage kind of a peaceful reflection.”

Rose is taking over Firehouse Art Center’s Instagram account this weekend, where she’ll share her artistic practice and speak about the making of the installation. Firehouse will livestream the opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday.

Firehouse is allowing walk-in guests from noon to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with limited capacity of 10 people in the gallery at once and groups of five or less. Appointments can be made for other days by emailing info@firehouse.org or contacting the gallery through its website.