Public art reminds us that we are cultured and sensitive, that there's a need to take time to smell the roses and value human creativity. As with most municipalities, Durango's Public Arts Commission is an extension of the city government, and its volunteer members, who are appointed for three year terms, all have art backgrounds and understand what art brings to a community.
A 2004 Durango City Council resolution established a Public Arts Commission and decreed it be "... vested with the responsibility of advising the City Council with respect to all aspects of planning, programming, procurement, installation, operations and maintenance of public art projects and artworks."
Today, five appointed commissioners follow a 2006 Master Plan that spells out the specifics for selecting art and where it will be located, and also provides directives on acquisition, managing of art on loan, the donation of artwork and, if necessary, the removal or return of art. The master plan also stipulates the administering of contracts with artists, the fees, the promotion of public art and the implementation of a sustainable funding source. In that regard, according to Carol Martin, a jewelry artist and chairwoman of the commission, "The city has been very generous."
Durango's innovative new library is one recent outcome of the plan and is a veritable showcase of public art, both inside and out. It boasts a collection of six exquisite works, some donated by local families; included in the collection is "Life Wall" by Willa Shalit and Dean Ericson, which was created by making life molds from the very people it commemorates, each of whom has made significant contributions to American society.
One recently dedicated sculpture, "The Guardian," by Mick Reber, was unveiled at Memorial Park last week. Another commission project is about to grace the police sub-station at Three Springs. The assignment was awarded to metal sculptor Preston Parrott after the call for entries, a review of submission concepts and then a final vote with public input. The way the artist tells it, the process of winning the assignment went through many stages. From the time Parrott first responded to the request for proposal and when he learned he had been chosen from among the 12 entries and three finalists, several months had passed. By visiting the site before embarking on a design, he developed an understanding of the spatial relationship around the building and what it would take to create an appropriate sculpture. The ultimate design, titled "Interdependence," reflects the artist's belief in how the substation and the community should relate. It will be unveiled in September.
Durango's public art includes sculptures, a mobile and a mosaic tile wall dotting the countryside from La Plata County Airport to the Fairgrounds on Main Avenue. A map of the sites is available on line at http://durangogov.org/ art/artmap.pdf. A walking tour to see or reconnect to these works is a delightful way to spend an afternoon.
firstname.lastname@example.org Stew Mosberg previously was Public Arts Commissioner in Breckenridge.