When Jorge Blanco, an award-winning visual artist who was born in Venezuela, made a trip up to Park City a couple of weeks ago, he couldn't get over how chilly it was.

"It was very hard for me because it was so cold," Blanco said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from his home on the West Coast of Florida. "I haven't felt anything so cold in a long time."

Still, the experience was exciting to Blanco because the Public Art Advisory Board of Park City commissioned a new work from him to be installed at Park City's Municipal Athletic and Recreation Center (MARC).

"The authorities of Park City are happy with the piece and that also made me very happy," Blanco said.

The work, titled "Air," is comprised of painted aluminum bicyclists, whose wheels spin in the wind.

"When I started making the piece, I thought about the wind when you ride a bike and how the air feels on your face and body," Blanco said. "It's a tickling feeling or sensation.

"I was also inspired by Park City's clean air, and combined those two ideas to make the piece," he said.

Blanco was commissioned by the Park City Public Art Advisory Board last year after the organization sent out a call for proposals and qualifications to various art organizations and artists.

The board consists of seven Park City residents who are art professionals or have some tie to the arts, said Melissa Soltesz, chairwoman of the Park City Public Art Advisory Board.

"The members, who are all volunteers, are selected by the city and are appointed to establish guidelines for public art selection and implementation," Soltesz said. "Within these guidelines we select work that is site specific, relevant and, work that we hope will enrich lives of those in the Park City community."

After receiving more than 90 submissions, the board, which has commissioned public art works at the Masac Building and pedestrian tunnels under Deer Valley and Bonanza drives, narrowed the stack down to three artists, Blanco being one of them.

"We contacted each artist and asked them to submit a specific proposal for the MARC," Soltesz explained. "After reviewing the new submissions that they sent via CD, we selected Jorge's work."

The board's goal was to be site-specific in choosing the work.

"We don't want to just pick a piece that is solely beautiful, because we wanted to have art that reflected relevance to Park City," Soltesz said. "Jorge's work with the cyclists was perfect because the MARC is an athletic center and we wanted something that was playful, whimsical and relevant to the athletic pursuits in town."

Blanco knew what type of art he wanted to do when he realized the artwork would be installed at the MARC.

"The center had some beautiful architecture with tennis courts and pools and all things about exercise," he said. "So, I thought the bicycles would be good for the center."

Although Blanco is also known for abstract works, he decided to create representative art for the project.

"I was convinced that type of style would connect with the people more directly," Blanco explained. "Thousands of people go see sports, no matter what religion, race or political thinking they have or what language they speak. They all sit together to enjoy the competitions.

"So, when I saw the art was going to be installed at the recreation center, I wanted to make sure people connected to it," he said.

The idea of creating a public-art installation has appealed to Blanco for the past 15 years.

"The reason is that most art is difficult to enjoy because it is so expensive for the public to go to a museum, because more often than not, they have to pay for a ticket," said Blanco, who thanked Sharon Bauman for sending out the notice and Matt Twombly who helped install the project. "Public art is a great opportunity for artists to communicate with the people who are walking on the street.

"Sometimes there are people who never see a piece of art in their lives and public art is a way for them to experience that," he said. "It's exciting to me to come in contact with the public without having to go to a museum or know a private collector. Of course, I do works for collectors and galleries, but public art is very important."

Blanco doesn't remember why he wanted to become an artist, but does remember the first time he saw art.

"There was no art in my home when I was a kid," he said. "There was music and books, but no visual art. But when I was 11 or 12, I saw an abstract painting hanging on the wall at my friend's house Caracas, Venezuela.

"Wow," he said. "I felt a large impact on my brain and my heart."

Blanco studied industrial design at the Neumann Institute in Venezuela and graduated with a degree in industrial design, before moving to Rome, Italy, to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts.

"My professors in Venezuela were sculptures and painters from Europe and were very influential to me," he said.

Blanco said he was lucky that he didn't lose his fascination with art when he was a teenager.

"In my opinion, every child has a talent in art, but when they get to be older, they change," he said. "Yes, some continue to work with colors and practice like children, but others lose their interest in color, paints and form. I don't know why they change. Maybe it's the food they eat."

Throughout his career, Blanco has learned what materials work best with different types of art.

"'Air' is done with aluminum that has been painted with the powder technique, like how a car is painted," he said. "The hardware that holds everything together is stainless steel.

"I chose them because the art was going to be displayed outside and, therefore, had to be strong against the rain, wind and snow."

He also decided on the aluminum and stainless steel because they are easy to maintain.

"You only need to use water and wax once a year," he said with a laugh.

Blanco's project, along with the one that has been installed at the Marsac Building, have a bigger budget than other projects the Public Art Advisory Board has worked on, Soltesz said.

"With a bigger budget comes larger and more elaborate works," she explained. "We are working to continue placing works of this caliber throughout our Park City community in hopes of adding to our already vibrant arts community."

For more information about Jorge Blanco, visit www.jorgeblancosculpture.com .