Basalt’s love-hate relationship with sculpture coming to an end

Wanted: A good home for five pieces of sculpture that have been part of Basalt’s first formal public art display for the past three years.

After adorning key locations around town — including the main entrance to Willits Town Center, the Basalt River Park and East Two Rivers Road — Basalt officials have decided it is time to move on from the works, collectively called Motio 2.0.

The work by Denver-area artist Wynn Earl Buzzell Jr. was selected for two-year display by the Basalt Public Arts Commission and installed in June 2017. BPAC members explored in 2018 if there was one site where all five of the related pieces could be assembled together. The project was scrapped because the price was too steep to have Buzzell tear apart the aluminum grid sculptures and reassemble them as one, according to Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. Instead, the five separate pieces received an extended stay into this year. In the eyes of some Basalt officials and residents, they have overextended their stay.

“We’ve now had those for three years,” Basalt Councilwoman Elyse Hottel said at a recent work session with BPAC members. “And full disclosure, I’m ready for something new.”

BPAC Chair Jeff Orsulak said Buzzell intended to take the sculptures down and discard them. The arts commission members were trying to find an alternative site so the art wouldn’t end up in a landfill. It hasn’t had any luck, so Buzzell was scheduled to travel to Basalt on Sept. 22 to disassemble the pieces. Something came up and he was “waylaid,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney is hopeful a central site can still be located, whether on town of Basalt land or private property. He thinks combining the five pieces into one would be thought-provoking.

“Some people hate it, some people love it,” Mahoney said. That’s the point of art, he continued, to spur emotion and “conjure up conversation.”

Buzzell couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. His website says Motio was originally commissioned as a temporary artwork on the Martin Plaza as part of Denver Art Museum’s summer 2016 exhibition. The unified group was split into five unique sections for display in Basalt.

“Each section consists of seven human figures. They are the abstract representations of the members within the community of Basalt,” Buzzell’s website said. “They are each unique and different, but they are all connected physically and figuratively through form, color and meaning. The sections are each a different color to signify the importance of diversity in our lives.”

Mahoney said he would like to see council consider if the assembled piece could be erected on land the town is acquiring for public art space at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site. Such a move might require some convincing of council members.

“Moab, Utah, might be a good destination, if you get my drift,” Basalt Mayor Bill Kane said at the recent meeting with BPAC.

BPAC has big plans for 2021. They include a grant program focused on creating murals around town, ice or snow sculptures and art events or exhibitions to mark the change of seasons. The commission is seeking $110,000 in the town government’s 2021 budget.

Anyone who wants to offer space for a new home for the Motio sculpture should contact town staff member Watkins Fulk-Gray at