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Letter: An increasing destination for art

I’ve enjoyed the lively discussion on the major, 20-foot-high piece by James Surls at the new roundabout in Carbondale, recently approved by the town trustees to be installed this fall. This process has had folks talking about art. The Surls sculpture is made of stainless steel and bronze and has organic references that I think match Carbondale’s heritage. It is valued at about $400,000, half of which is a gift from Surls. The other $200,000 will be entirely contributed from private sources with a lead gift from Connie and Jim Calaway.

Art is becoming increasingly important for our town, and we are becoming a player in a rapid regional change of more and better art. Consider the Surls piece, the lively annual change of sculpture of our “Art About Town” series, the recent opening of the beautiful Powers Museum (adjacent to Planet Earth and having a highly complete collection of Jasper Johns prints), our fine new library and the recent Colorado award to the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities that recognizes Carbondale as a creative district.

Some of us remember in 1972 when Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s monumental art curtain at Rifle Gap blew down only 28 hours after it was hung. That was one start with our regional art, and I still have a poster of that beautiful curtain tacked on the wall of my garage. Along the Arkansas River, that same couple’s project “Over the River” is now getting closer to happening. This installation will consist of 6.7 miles of horizontally suspended translucent fabric panels, high over the river, between Salida and Canon City. This installation will be a major international draw.

With “Over the River,” the opening of the new Aspen Art Museum and all that is happening around Carbondale, our region will be a tourist destination for art. This will add to our economic vitality. I find this all pretty exciting. But what is this all really about? The answer, I think, was given at a recent talk by Surls, who quoted Leo Tolstoy along the lines of “great art is partly intended to motivate viewers to see the beauty in art and have that beauty transferred to their own hearts.” Nice.

Bill Spence

Carbondale


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