RIDGWAY – A proposal to place a monumental western-themed bronze at the Ouray County 4-H Event Center in Ridgway has been shelved, at least temporarily.
The idea, floated by donor and part-time resident Bill Widger, was controversial from the beginning, and now Widger has withdrawn his offer.
In discussion with the Ouray County Commissioners on July 5, Fairgrounds Manager Susan Long talked about the two possibilities being considered and the (unscientific) poll to determine the public’s favorite. (Commissioners were involved because the proposed site is county property.)
Citizens had been asked to vote, online, for either “Memories” or a sculpture called “Ridgway Roper,” which had an original title of “Texas Two-Step.” Both are by Wyoming artist Vic Payne, and both stand close to 13 feet tall.
At the meeting, members of PARC, Public Art in Ridgway Colorado, expressed their strong opposition to “Ridgway Roper,” which depicts an illegal act, that of roping a deer. It’s illegal to harass wildlife, said PARC members Michael McCullough, Lucy Boody and Rick Weaver. Long said that while she understood the historic nature of the piece, and the fact that art is not inherently endorsing any action, she agreed that “Ridgway Roper” was “inappropriate for the 4-H Event Center. Now, if it was a cow he was roping . . .”
She also reported to the BOCC that 14 of the 15 members in the Fairgrounds Advisory Council also preferred the less-flamboyant, less-controversial “Memories,” which shows a young boy in the saddle, hunting with his grandfather.
The commissioners directed Long to proceed with the placement of “Memories” in the planter triangle of the Event Center parking lot.
But then the saga took an unexpected turn. Long learned that Widger’s “intent all along was to place all three of his Vic Payne sculptures in one location, to be an attraction for Ridgway. Although he never said that to me.” Consequently, “he withdrew ‘Memories.’ We agreed to leave the door open, but he rescinded the offer of ‘Roper’ and ‘Memories.’” Widger was also involved in the donation of another Vic Payne piece, the American bald eagle at the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park north of town.
Long believes Widger is looking for a new location to host his “attraction.” (Widger’s voicemail was full, and he was thus unavailable for comment.)
“In the end,” Long said, “we just went back to Plan A for landscaping the parking lot. We’ll put a picnic bench there and some pavers and plant some nice trees. In fact, if it’s not raining too hard, they’re being planted right now. They were delivered today.”