Bears, birds, mountains, the Animas River and other mainstays of Southwest Colorado will be featured in the laser-cut metal panels planned for the U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection, the most highly traveled area in Durango.
The “Common Threads” installation will go up this fall, but residents can get an early taste of what is to come at an art show featuring professional and student work through the month of August at the Animas Chocolate and Coffee Co. on Main Avenue.
Allison Leigh Smith and Bryce Pettit pitched their idea for the panels two years ago and have been working with the public on theme ideas to include in the panels. They spent months asking residents what they love about Durango to develop designs for the 19 panels expected to line the long medians at the intersection.
The artists also held art classes for hundreds students and held workshops for adults to translate their ideas into symbols.
Some of the themes that arose from the outreach were expected: mountains, trees, dogs and family and friends. But they also incorporated some more quirky ideas, that the artists hope residents will look for, Smith said.
“Art should contain a little bit of the unexpected,” she said.
The artists also incorporated designs and ideas from other artists in the community including Sam Brigham, Durango’s Lego bomber, she said.
Smith’s only regret is she couldn’t incorporate more of the submitted ideas, she said.
The idea to install metal panels with laser cutouts was selected through an online vote last year with nearly 2,000 registered participants. The vote was a distinct departure from previous public art selections in which the Creative Economy Commission has selected pieces.
The panels were funded by a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and $25,000 in funding and in-kind contributions from the city.
The city of Durango had said the project would receive $100,000 in funding, including $50,000 in grants. But the project did not receive a second grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and as a result, the artists expected they would have to scale back the project.
But Durango resident Mark McWhirter, owner of Pacific Metal Cutting, offered to donate metal panels for the project and laser cut them for free, Smith said. He is also shipping them free of charge to Durango, all to preserve the projects scope, she said.
The artists also plan to incorporate metal cutouts of the screens in the piece to give the piece greater dimension and ensure materials aren’t wasted, she said.
“I am really proud of it. There is so much thought and love that went into this,” Smith said.
A reception for the art installation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Animas Chocolate, 920 Main Ave.
email@example.comThis story has been updated to correctly describe the contributions of Mark McWhirter.