By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4)– A suspected drunk driver plowed through a piece of Denver’s art history early Friday morning.
The driver, Yessica Nevarez-Villa sustained minor injuries but the crash sent her passenger to the hospital with serious injuries.
It was just before 3 a.m. Friday when Nevarez-Villa, 22, plowed through a metal sculpture of trees in front of the McNichols Building. She not only totaled her car but damaged a piece of art that paved the way for outdoor sculptures in Denver.
The unnamed piece of art was built by longtime Denver artist Robert Mangold in 1975. The damage the crash caused was a shock to the city’s Art Administrator.
“It’s one of our few pieces that we have from the 1970s. It’s a shame to lose one of Robert’s pieces,” said Rudi Cerri, Denver’s Public Art Administrator.
Mangold still works at his studio in the Wash Park area of Denver. He doesn’t like to brag but his installation, described by many as “trees,” was the start of a movement by Colorado artists to beautify the area.
In November of 1975, The Park People and the I-25 Artists Alliance got together to figure out a way to incorporate art to the city. The Park People asked artists to produce models for 17 original sites. Civic Center Park was one of them and Mangolds tree sculpture was born.
“Would you believe the we got the state, the state house, to donate $10,000 on that project?” Mangold said.
The city says it’s confident Mangold’s sculpture will be fixed and is in the process of hiring a fabricator to work on repairs.
Mangold doesn’t see it as a lost cause either. For him, it comes with the trade.
“If you had as many pieces scattered around the world and at one time Denver as I do, something is going to be damaged sometime and usually there’s at least one being damaged all the time and you can’t get mad about it. You just fix it!” said Mangold.
As for the suspect in the crash, she hasn’t officially been charged with drinking and driving but police suspect alcohol and speed are factors.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.