Our view: Preserving Steamboat’s public art
If you’ve ever admired the majestic bronze elk in West Lincoln Park or pondered the red granite gates that rise above the Yampa River Core Trail during a morning run, you’re experiencing some of the city of Steamboat Springs’ public art collection. In total, there are about 75 pieces of public art in the city’s inventory, and until recently, there was no plan in place or funding readily available to maintain that art.
Last week, it was announced the city had created the Steamboat Springs Public Art Maintenance Endowment Fund with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation to help cover the cost of caring for the public art the city owns. The new fund comes on the heels of the city’s decision in August 2017 to lift its moratorium on accepting public art, and creation of the endowment will help make sure that any new art the city accepts into its collection will be accompanied by funds to maintain it.
This is a positive move by the city and a decision we support. We also think the city was wise to impose a temporary moratorium on accepting new pieces of public art until it found a means to take care of it.
The city started the endowment by placing $10,000 of city money into the fund. Going forward, when someone wants to donate public art to the city, an art conservator will determine how much money needs to be added to the public endowment to keep the piece of art in good condition for perpetuity, and the donor be required to contribute that amount to the fund.
By following this protocol, the city will have the money available to keep public art from degrading without having to dip into the city’s already over-taxed general revenue fund.
Much of the public art located within the city is maintained by other organizations. The Yampa River Botanic Park is home to 18 pieces of public art, and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council owns 17 other pieces. These organizations work hard to keep their art looking good for the public, and this new endowment fund will help the city do the same.
And for those who wonder why public art requires maintenance, you only need to look outside for the answer. Steamboat’s climate, which includes cold, snowy winters, intense summer sunshine, mineral hot springs and low humidity, is hard on anything left out in the natural environment year-round.
And for anyone wondering why public art is important to the Steamboat Springs community, just ask acclaimed local sculptor Sandy Graves, who spoke about its value in a June 11, 2016, article in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, “When people come to Steamboat and see our (public) art collection, it shows that we have a sense of aesthetic that people of our community appreciate and see the value in having. That creative expression is all around, and I think it speaks a lot about this town. To have that kind of beauty here really makes this a special place.”
The new Steamboat Springs Public Art Maintenance Endowment Fund ensures that Steamboat’s public art collection, which is valuable and impressive, is preserved for generations to come. And we agree with Graves that public art is important. It elevates the community by enriching lives, enhances our burgeoning arts and culture scene and helps to maintain Steamboat’s sometimes quirky, but always authentic, character.
Establishing the fund dovetails nicely with Steamboat Springs’ new designation as a Colorado Creative District, and we hope it sparks a resurgence in donations of public art to the city. For more information about the fund or to donate, visit https://yvcf.org/press-release-public-art-endowment-fund-created/.
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