A threat of legal action over the Arc of History at the U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection was dropped this month.
A lawyer representing artist Tom Holmes sent an email dated Aug. 10 to the city stating that Holmes has decided not to pursue any effort to repair the vandalized sculpture. The Arc was significantly damaged in summer 2015, likely with a rock pick or pick ax.
“He has directed me to inform you that he is dropping this matter,” Lawyer Kenneth Golden said in the email to the city attorney.
The email was recently posted to the city’s website as part of the Durango Public Art Commission’s meeting agenda.
Holmes threatened to sue shortly after the city announced in late July that the sculpture would be taken down.
Holmes claimed he had not received a letter from the Public Art Commission offering $28,000 to restore the sculpture.
Once he found out about the offer, Holmes told the city that he would repair the Arc for that price, Golden said.
But the city had already decided not to repair it, Golden said.
On the same day that Golden sent the email to the city, Holmes sent another email to a Durango Herald reporter calling it his “final statement” on the Arc. The reporter attempted to contact Holmes about the statement, but calls and emails were not returned. The statement said:
“I see the Arc of History as now complete. No other sculpture is needed to project a deeper truth upon the last two years. The project is now made whole for all to witness, as it fades from memory. A re-build would have distracted from the responsibilities the people, the City and the stones have all played in this unfolding drama. Stepping aside, the river will wash all to the ocean; the origin of all that is. Instinctively, the stones have spoken their truth as it always was.”
A lawsuit would have called into question whether the city would be required to repair the Arc under federal law, Golden said.
The Visual Artists Rights Act grants artists, such as Holmes, the right to “prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation or other modification” of their artwork.
This law is meant to protect artists and their reputations, even if they no longer own the artwork. It protects the art for the lifetime of the artist, Golden said.
It is unclear under the law whether the city has an obligation to repair the sculpture, and Holmes was not interested in funding an exploratory lawsuit, Golden said.
The city decided to take down the sculpture because it would be too expensive to fix.
Previous estimates from the artist to repair the sculpture came in at $38,000 and above, Sherri Dugdale assistant to the city manager previously told The Durango Herald
The city likely will relocate, store or return the Arc in accordance with the city’s Public Art Master Plan.
The city received $23,000 from an insurance company – excluding the $5,000 deductible – following the vandalism, and it could be used to commission a new piece of art for the intersection, Dugdale previously told The Durango Herald.
The Public Art Commission is scheduled to discuss the removal of the sculpture on Tuesday.
Holmes did not respond to a request for comment.