Curious residents packed Ska Brewing on Friday eager to learn about three public art concepts that could be installed at the U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection in Durango.
Many attendees at the open house seemed pleased that results from an online city survey will determine which one of the large pieces will be installed on the long medians at the busy intersection. Residents will also have a chance to help refine and build the selected piece.
“The efforts are going to be paid for with taxpayer dollars, and the taxpayers should have something to say about it,” said Durango resident Rich Larson.
The three artists – all Durangoans – were selected from a pool of 15 submissions by an evaluation team that includes 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.
To pay for the new piece, the city received about $25,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts, which will need to be matched by 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.
If the city does not receive the full amount, the projects will have to be scaled back.
As of Friday evening, the online survey showed a close race with 385 registered votes cast.
“Coexistence” by Bryce Pettit had 22 percent of the vote, “Common Threads” by lead artist Allison Leigh Smith had 37 percent of the vote and “And the River Rolls On” by Cindy Atchison had 41 percent of the vote.
“And the River Rolls On” would be built with 26 steel waves out of oxidized steel panels. The community would help design the shape of the waves, as well as the symbols and the mosaics that would adorn them.
During Friday’s open house, residents told Atchison they liked that the 8-foot by 5-foot waves would be fairly low to the ground and wouldn’t be too distracting to drivers, she said.
Smith pitched 15 to 30 large laser-cut metal panels that would feature patterns more commonly seen on fabrics. The patterns on the metals for “Common Threads” would be developed based on artwork submitted by local residents.
“I am just going to line it up in a beautiful way, but the art is yours,” Smith said.
Durango resident Mariah Kaminsky said she liked “Common Threads” the most. It didn’t bother her that specific symbols to be used in the piece have not yet been determined.
“I think it has the best community involvement,” Kaminsky said. “I think it will evolve into what the community wants.”
Rebecca Dash shared Kaminsky’s high opinion of Smith’s concept. Smith plans to build the piece in partnership with Pettit, a bronze sculptor. Pettit had his own concept selected as a finalist as well.
“It’s easy to trust that whatever they put together would be a very balanced piece,” she said.
Pettit’s piece, “Coexistence,” would consist of 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.
The sculptures 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.
Some community members were interested in historical community symbols representing mining and ranching, he said.
The online survey had received about 690 responses as of Friday night. But, so far, only the 385 registered votes will be counted in the official tally. The registration process prevents people from voting multiple times.
Residents can vote for their favorite piece until Feb. 23 at www.durangogov.org/virtualcityhall.