Town of Snowmass’ proposed roundabout sculpture stirs talk, emotion
If art is supposed to incite emotion and conversation, then the town of Snowmass’ proposed sculpture at the new roundabout is doing its job.
Talk of the proposed piece grew heated at a Town Council meeting Monday when a few members of the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board critiqued the town’s “vetting process.”
“We were given no choice. It was ‘take it or leave it’,” Snowmass Arts Advisory Board member Linda Rennick said before the council. “And that was an insult, really, to our committee.”
In the fall of 2016, part-time Snowmass Village resident Heinz Simon approached the town with an offer to commission and donate a piece of art for the roundabout at the intersection of Brush Creek and Wood roads.
Simon, working as the standalone nonprofit “Snowmass Community Fund,” commissioned South Dakota-based artist Dale Lamphere to create the piece.
“Recognizing that public art is a tremendous asset to the community, the town welcomed the idea from the (Snowmass Community Fund),” Town Manager Clint Kinney wrote in a memorandum to the council.
“Staff met with the (Snowmass Community Fund) and provided them with the technical specifications that any object within the roundabout would need to meet,” including sight and maximum dimensions.
By the end of October, town staff had introduced the concept to both the council and the Arts Advisory Board at their respective meetings.
In early February, town staff, the chair of the Arts Advisory Board and the council received the first rendering of the sculpture along with a letter from the artist.
“The proposed sculpture, with the working title ‘Double Black Diamond,’ visually distills into abstract form the precipitous speed and balance of downhill skiing,” Lamphere wrote in his letter. “Careful consideration was given to the 360-degree location, with the view from the parking at Base Village revealing a graceful curve that resonates with the roofline of the city administration building. Coming up Brush Creek Road, the sculpture echoes the slope of the hillside adjacent to the rock wall with signage, which remains fully visible.”
The sculpture will be constructed from stainless steel and creek rock at 22 feet, 6 inches tall, 11 feet wide and 7 feet deep, according to Lamphere.
At a meeting in March, the Arts Advisory Board approved the piece on four conditions:
1. The planning commission review and vet the sculpture.
2. Request a smaller model from the artist to better depict the sculpture and the materials he will be using.
3. Request the artist visit Snowmass Village before the end of April for a public presentation on the sculpture.
4. Investigate the lighting and landscaping plans to make sure all design elements are compatible with each other.
The Arts Advisory Board members pointed out Monday that two of the conditions — the smaller model of the sculpture and a visit from the artist — were not met.
Lamphere argued that the model would take a few months to create; and the donor declined to fly the artist out, Kinney explained after the meeting Monday.
Simon had requested the town make a final decision to accept or decline the offer, due to fundraising and production requirements, at Monday’s meeting, according to the memo from Kinney.
Naturally, the contention that arose Monday prevented such from happening.
“There wasn’t the proper vetting process that went into this incredibly important piece of art in an incredibly important place,” Snowmass Arts Advisory Board member Jim Anathan said. “And I think that’s what we’re worried about. I think we are more concerned about putting something, whatever (it) is, and not having it be right for the community.”
The council members also differed in their views of the piece as well as its placement and the proposed legal agreements with the donor and artist.
Snowmass Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk was most vocal in questioning the sculpture, its height and the process.
“I feel very rushed and I’m not really sure why we feel so rushed,” Shenk said. “But it seems like a very rushed decision on a very important piece of our community.”
She later added, “I think that we need to really slow down and think about it.”
But the meeting Monday also offered lighter, and at some points, optimistic, discussion.
“Art is polarizing,” said Snowmass Town Councilman Bill Madsen, who seemed to articulate a more neutral view of the sculpture. “So whether you like this or not, I mean, it just is what it is.”
Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler added, “Again, it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.”
Snowmass Village resident Nancy Gensch, who advocated for the sculpture at a previous council meeting, vocalized her support once again.
“I hear you guys on (the Arts Advisory Board) that this process upset the board a lot. I hear it; I get that,” Gensch said. “What I don’t want anyone to lose track of is the fact that this is a really appropriate image for Snowmass. … It’s action, it’s mountains, it’s movement.”
She concluded: “So please, in your effort to work through this process that wasn’t maybe approached in the best way, … don’t lose the artistic value of this piece as a representative statement about Snowmass.”
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.
Members of the Snowmass Arts Advisory Board agreed to continue discussion of the sculpture at their meeting Thursday.
The council expects to revisit the issue and hopefully reach a consensus during a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
For more on the town’s proposed roundabout sculpture, visit http://www.tosv.com/index.aspx?nid=452.
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