The city of Durango released three new concepts for sculptures near the U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection Monday.
An evaluation team selected the concepts from 15 applications. The results of an online city survey will determine which one will be installed, said Colleen O’Brien, the business development and redevelopment coordinator.
“We want it to be embraced,” O’Brien said of the art.
Once the community selects its favorite piece, residents will have a chance to help refine the final look, with students and adults having the chance to help create it.
“All of them have a different engagement aspect,” O’Brien said.
The initial evaluation team included representatives from Durango High School, Colorado Department of Transportation, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission, Fort Lewis College, Durango Arts Center and the city’s Public Art Commission. The group interviewed four artists before selecting three finalists, O’Brien said.
In the past, the city’s Public Art Commission selected public art pieces, including the last sculpture installed at the Highway 550/160 intersection, the Arc of History. The piece drew mixed reactions, and some residents were incensed by its $28,000 price tag. Under the cover of night, residents put their own touches on the rock sculpture – including donning it with a dinosaur head and a Chinese dragon head – until one night pranks were replaced with malicious action and someone destroyed the giant stones, possibly with a sledge hammer.
To pay for the new piece, the city received about $25,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts and plans to match it with $25,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. The city plans to apply for an additional $25,000 grant from NEA, again with a matching grant, bringing the total cost to about $100,000.
The city expects to hear about the grant in three or four months, O’Brien said. The submitted concepts anticipate the city would receive the second grant, but artists are aware the projects may need to be scaled back.
Artists are expected to work with students on the development of the pieces during the 2018-19 school year, and the work is expected to be installed by fall 2019, O’Brien said.
The public is invited to meet the artists and ask questions about the concepts during an open house Friday. All three artists are from Durango.
“It’s going to be pretty informal,” O’Brien said.
One concept envisions 15 to 30 large laser cut-metal panels installed along the medians that would feature textile-like patterns. The piece called “Common Threads” would be developed based on artwork submitted by local residents, Allison Leigh Smith wrote in her proposal.
“Together they will create a lovely dappled-light effect when driving by quickly,” she wrote.
If selected, Smith would hold classes in the schools and for the general public that would ask attendees to consider what they love about Durango and cover visual storytelling, drawing and sculpting techniques, depending on skill level.
The artist also plans to set up social media hashtags and an email for residents to share photos and videos that capture what they love about Durango.
Art from the classes and independent submissions would inspire patterns.
Cindy Atchison is proposing to create “And the River Rolls On,” with 26 steel waves out of oxidized steel panels. The community would help design the shape of the waves and the symbols that would adorn them.
“Each panel could feature a different theme, illustrated by icons, symbols and objects chosen and developed by our community,” she wrote in her proposal.
The panels will be spaced so drivers would see a wave swelling and crashing beside them, she wrote in her proposal.
She plans to involve elementary, middle and high school students as well as members of the general public in creation of the wave panels.
For example, elementary school students could go on river field trips, gather stones, model clay waves and cut wave panels. Adults could help refine designs, create mosaics for the waves and fabricate the panels.
Bryce Pettit is proposing some 20 life-sized bronze animals including bear, deer, birds and fish that would be installed on a foundation of stacked landscape stones to symbolize the mountains and swooping lines of bent steel to symbolize the Animas River.
Pettit’s concept titled “Coexistence” would feature animals that would be realistic on one side and feature a silhouette on the other. Within the silhouettes, Pettit envisions welding symbols of Durango’s culture that would be designed by the community.
The public would be invited to submit drawings of symbols and help select them for the sculpture. Students would help create the molds for the sculptures after learning the appropriate skills.
The only way to cast a vote for one of the sculptures is to participate in the online survey.
Residents are required to register to prevent them from voting multiple times. For children and seniors who are less likely to have access to online surveys, the city plans to hold meetings to allow them to vote in person, O’Brien said.
The city’s Public Art Commission will select the winning piece in the event of a tie.