Joanne Houck resigns from Snowmass Arts Advisory Board as chairwoman |

Joanne Houck resigns from Snowmass Arts Advisory Board as chairwoman

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
The roundabout sculpture at the intersection of Brush Creek and Wood roads in Snowmass.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The goal of boosting Snowmass’ public arts scene may be hampered with the resignation of its second Arts Advisory Board member since the council in late April accepted the “Double Black Diamond” roundabout sculpture.

Joanne Houck, the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board chairwoman since June 2016, announced her resignation Dec. 31. In May, the month after the Town Council approved the piece, former Arts Advisory Board member Jim Anathan submitted his resignation.

Houck, like other members of the Snowmass board and community, expressed frustration with the town’s process of vetting, accepting and renaming the 22-foot-tall sculpture.

Following the Arts Advisory Board’s sculpture renaming contest, which aimed to better involve Snowmass residents on public art and garnered a total of 170 entries, the Town Council at a meeting Dec. 18 declined the board’s top three choices and decided the name would remain as is.

South Dakota-based artist Dale Lamphere, who created the piece at the expense of part-time Snowmass resident Heinz Simon, had originally titled the sculpture, “Double Black Diamond.” While Simon commissioned the 5,000-pound piece made from stainless steel and creek rock, the Town of Snowmass wrote the check for its $12,000 installation costs at the intersection of Brush Creek and Wood roads.

“The Name Our Sculpture contest was conceived by SAAB to garner public support for the roundabout sculpture following the bitter controversy that enveloped Snowmass Village over the Lamphere installation this past spring,” Houck wrote in her resignation letter. “Instead, Town Council’s disappointing decision … constitutes a breach of public trust and has undermined SAAB’s efforts to engage the community in a positive discussion about the value of public art.”

While Houck cited other issues compounding her decision to leave the board, including “limited staff support, resources and follow through as well as poor department coordination and information flow,” the way in which the town handled matters concerning the roundabout sculpture seemed to be her final straw.

Houck, a part-time Snowmass resident who also works as an attorney in Houston, could not be reached for further comment Friday.

Snowmass Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk said Friday she “was definitely not surprised” to learn of Houck’s resignation.

“I feel like I was getting the sense that there was going to be a lot of possible turnover as a result of everything that’s gone down this last year,” said Shenk, whose mother, Joyce Shenk, is on the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board. “I don’t blame (Houck) and I understand her reasoning and I get where’s coming from.”

She added, “I think it’s hard to invest a lot of time and energy into something and constantly be feeling like you can’t get it right.”

Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler said she was surprised Houck resigned.

“SAAB has continued to grow and do wonderful things under (Houck’s) leadership as a chair person,” Butler said, “and needless to say, sad and disappointed was exactly my reaction.”

The mayor added, “We hope we don’t hear from other people who are even thinking of resigning.”

Shenk thinks there will be “other people who either resign or just don’t renew, which makes me sad because I feel like it’s such an important part of our community to have art, and to have people focused on art, and to lose that would be a real shame.”