Snowmass Town Council OKs roundabout sculpture

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
The stainless steel sculpture, pictured being produced, that will be installed at the new roundabout in Snowmass in July.
Courtesy photo |

Anyone driving, walking or biking around Snowmass’ center will notice something shiny and new this summer: a 22-foot-tall, 11-foot-wide steel sculpture at the roundabout where Brush Creek and Wood roads meet.

During a special meeting Monday, the Snowmass Town Council voted 4-1 to accept the roundabout sculpture that part-time resident Heinz Simon first offered the town last fall.

Snowmass Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk was the dissenting vote, though other council members were hesitant to accept the piece prior to voting favorably at the end of the discussion.

“I feel like we’re being pushed into this (decision). … Now, for me personally, this (sculpture) has grown on me,” Snowmass Town Councilman Tom Goode said. “I’m talking what I feel like the community feels like. I feel like the community is being rushed into this.”

Snowmass Town Councilman Bill Madsen said he was “fascinated” by all the feedback the town received throughout the process.

“A lot of people who think it’s too big, it doesn’t represent Snowmass — as Alyssa said — they don’t like materials. There’s a lot of subjective arguments, but as Bob just said, it doesn’t really matter because we’re never going to solve it based on that,” Madsen said. “I do think it’s unfortunate that we’re being dictated a gift, that part of it doesn’t sit with me well, but I think within the agreement we have the flexibility to move (the sculpture), and so I think I will reluctantly vote for the donation, even if I do it with one hand on my nose.”

The council and staff deliberated the donor’s proposed legal terms, which state that the town is expected to place the sculpture at the roundabout but may later relocate it.

Simon, working as the standalone nonprofit Snowmass Community Fund, initially proposed that the sculpture remain at the roundabout for at least two years before it may be moved.

The donor later omitted a set timeframe from the legal agreements, explained Town Attorney John Dresser, who along with Town Manager Clint Kinney had a conference call with Simon Monday morning.

Shenk pointed out that the language stating the Snowmass Community Fund’s expectation that the sculpture be placed at the roundabout was “not binding.”

Regardless, both Kinney and Dresser made clear that if the town chooses to accept the donation, it should abide by the expectations as stated in the agreements.

“After all, (the sculpture) was designed to fit in with the parameters of the easements and the sites lines and everything there,” Dresser said. “If you’re not going to display it in the roundabout, you should not enter into the agreements as drafted. ‘If you don’t like it there, take it out,’ he reiterated it at least three times today.”

Simon, who commissioned South Dakota-based artist Dale Lamphere to create the sculpture, said the town must decide to accept or deny the piece at Monday’s meeting or the offer would no longer be valid, Kinney announced at the beginning of the meeting.

The donor initially requested the town reach a decision at last week’s Town Council meeting, though a heated discussion and opposing views prevented any consensus.

Members of the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board, some of whom had criticized the town’s vetting process at last week’s town council meeting, met as a board later that week.

However, because only four of the nine advisory board members were at their meeting Thursday, they were not able to have a quorum.

While the members present — Linda Rennick, Stephanie Parmelee, Michael Miracle and Joyce Shenk — individually recommended that the town accept the sculpture from the Snowmass Community Fund, it did not serve as an official recommendation on behalf of the arts advisory board.

At Monday night’s meeting, two people made public comments, both in support of the sculpture.

First was Snowmass resident Greg Rulon, who described the piece as “bold” and “dynamic.”

“Every piece we’ve installed in Snowmass Village has been controversial,” Rulon said. “And that’s what art’s supposed to do.”

He concluded, “We’re looking toward our future in Snowmass, and I think this is part of it.”

Kimberly Simon, who is the daughter of the donor, said she teaches her students at Aspen Elementary School to appreciate and interpret art.

“The sculpture that we’ve been using is at the roundabout in Carbondale,” Simon said. “I would really love it if we would be able to use a sculpture that is more relevant to our students and that is also more local that we can relate to.”

As an artist and a “blue-groomer,” Simon said she asked herself what a double black diamond (the artist’s name for the piece) sculpture means to her.

“I started thinking, well, what is the double black diamond that I need to aspire to in my own life?” Simon said. “I think this reaches well beyond the ski resort and just saying this appeals to people that are seasonal or residential people that spend their time on the mountain.”

While the donor is commissioning the piece, the town is responsible for its installation costs, which are estimated at $12,000, according to Travis Elliot, assistant to the town manager.

Altogether, the council and staff agreed Monday that the town must create a better process for vetting and accepting public art.

“What I would suggest is that once we do the vote, we all agree that we have our town staff, along with the (Snowmass Arts Advisory Board), complete a document about public art,” Mayor Markey Butler said.

Referring to the process, Butler added, “I don’t want to have any more of these.”