Odd collection of characters battles speeding in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Odd collection of characters battles speeding in Basalt

Basalt speeders will soon be confronted by a big, burly biker dude imploring them to slow down.

This ham-fisted fellow stands about 7 feet tall, sports tattoos on both arms and looks intimidating, despite the toothy smile. His vest is too small to cover his white pasty belly. Across his chest are the words, “Slow down.”

He’s going to work for the town of Basalt (although town officials swear it has nothing to do with recent budget cuts). Joining the motorcycle rider will be a pirate, giraffe and giant sunflower.

They are the creations of the students in Sunny Harrison’s mixed-media art class at Basalt High School. They were commissioned by the town to create art that can be used as “traffic calming devices” on residential roads where speeding is at its worst.

The art will be placed in yards or against buildings alongside several busy streets for two or three days at a time, then moved to other locations, said Robi Darcy of the town public works department.

Residents of Sopris Drive and Homestead Drive have been particularly worried about speeders. They have appealed to the Town Council to make their roads more pedestrian-friendly.

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The town is exploring expensive steps such as sidewalks, speed bumps and the like, but there are no guarantees in a time of tight budgets.

For a couple of hundred bucks for materials, the art could prove to be the answer.

The project was the conceived by former Basalt public works director Gerry Pace. He saw an Associated Press article in the Sept. 20 Aspen Times about how Hyattstown, Md., was using 12 sculptures to slow traffic. The 65 residents of that town dubbed their project The Road Show.

Pace was a victim of Basalt budget cuts last month, but the project survived.

“I call it Road Show II,” said Harrison.

Her students came up with concepts for the sculpture in October, then drew up plans that were reviewed by Darcy. She said the biker dude was gruff enough that she asked the team working on him to tone it down.

“He was a scary biker, on paper,” she said.

The high school students used materials such as chicken wire, plywood, two-by-fours and even Fiberglass to come up with their designs. Pete the Pirate comes complete with a peg leg and paint that should glow in the dark.

Harrison said she was immediately interested in the project because it would be a great opportunity for the class to produce functional art that would be seen by a lot of people. Some of the students weren’t quite so optimistic about the project.

“Truthfully, I wasn’t very excited,” said Nicole Koutsakis, who worked on the giraffe. “I thought, ‘Basalt is a small town. People won’t like them.'”

But Basalt’s always gone for the quirky. Darcy said she thinks people will love the sculpture, and she’s willing to bet the pieces will do their job.

“You drive along and you see a huge giraffe, it’s going to slow you down,” Darcy said.

The public works staff was mounting the sculptures on barricades as an anti-theft measure. If one happens to end up in your teenager’s room, please direct it back to the street, Darcy asked.

The builders of the biker were Derrick McFarlin, Shawn McClendon, Mike Wheeler and Mandy Douglas.

The team that made the pirate included Sara Newland, Molly Williams and Maria Jacobson.

Koutsakis’ colleagues on the giraffe project were Amy Conder, Jennifer Vilano and Raeanna Roesener.

The five classmates who created the sunflower were Marisol Curiel, Vanessa Duran, Isidro Martinez, Ilario Meraz and Hugo Alatorre.