Breckenridge is wiping the slate clean, starting a new search for a sculpture in the roundabout at the north entrance of town.
The other finalists included “Dreams and Gravity,” by Ilan Averbuch; “Mountain Embrance,” by Denny Haskew; and “Summit Gold,” by Seth Vandable. The art commission received 260 responses to its initial call to artists, posted in October 2013.
“I don’t think any one of the four pieces are appropriate for the roundabout coming into town,” Councilman Gary Gallagher said.
Jennifer Cram, arts district manager, said “Syncline” was chosen because the commission felt it best met the creative intent requirements, and people would come to Breckenridge to see the piece because Paley is a well-known artist.
All seven council members agreed not to move forward with the proposed designs, mainly responding to negative public feedback about the choices. However, the council agreed to purchase the Paley sculpture and place it in a different location, providing the necessary funds to continue the search process for a roundabout piece.
“I’d like to see a process that results with a consensus between the art commission and the community,” Councilman Ben Brewer said.
The commission reviewed applications in December 2013 and narrowed the field to the four finalists. Those artists prepared proposals and scale models to show the commission and public on Feb. 19. At the March 5 art commission meeting, the nine members discussed the finalists and selected the Paley piece to recommend to the town council.
Gallagher said he appreciated the recommendation and hard work of the art commission, and understood how a piece like Paley’s could bring visitors and art enthusiasts to town, but thought the piece should be viewed up close, with people getting the chance to walk around it and read more about the artist and the piece itself. He suggested placing it near the Riverwalk Center or another area downtown.
“We want an iconic piece, that the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or the (Gateway) Arch is to St. Louis,” he said. “It has to represent something more than itself. I don’t see any piece speaking to Breckenridge, certainly not when you enter the town.”
Councilman Mark Burke suggested possibly commissioning a piece of art instead, though Mayor John Warner warned, “We don’t want to design a piece of art by committee.”
A majority of the public, both online at EngageBreckenridge.com and at the public presentation, voted for Vandable’s piece showing a skier, but the feedback overwhelmingly noted none of the four seemed to represent the town.
In her written report to council about the commission’s decision, Cram wrote, “The overall atmosphere for comments was rather negative. … Public input is very important, however the emotional response of the public does not take into consideration all of the details of the project that the Commission must consider for a piece to be the best fit for the Creative Intent, location and overall growth of the collection.”
But Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe said she heard loud and clear the public did not want to see any of the four final designs.
“It’s our obligation to listen to those comments,” she said. “I do respect the arts commission and taking it to a higher level, so to speak, but we’re hearing this isn’t the place to take it to a higher level. The roundabout is a front door, we want something quickly to say, ‘You are in Breckenridge.’”
While the council did agree the Paley piece had the correct sense of scale, Councilwoman Jennifer McAtamney questioned whether the roundabout was even the right place for an entrance sculpture.
“You can’t get close to it, and we need to keep traffic flowing,” she said. “I don’t think you create a connection with people in that space.”
In her report, Cram wrote the commission thought the sculpture “may not be immediately embraced by the community at first glance, and agreed that public education should be a priority to help the public understand contemporary art in general and Albert Paley as a world-renowned sculptor.”
Cram was unable to reach Paley on March 12 to see if he was receptive to having his sculpture purchased by the town for another location.
The art commission will hold a special meeting next week, then return to town council March 25 to seek more direction on how to proceed. Cram said it can be challenging to find art the public can relate to while having the piece be meaningful for the location and to the town’s collection.
“The commission feels like … it was a win-win,” she said. “We are still looking for the perfect sculpture for the roundabout, and hopefully we can work with Paley to locate the sculpture somewhere in our cultural spine.”