Sid Pope, who manages his daughter’s store, Amber Art Boutique, said the topic was brought up at a Ridgway Town Council meeting last month by Caitlin Switzer, former director of the Ridgway Chamber of Commerce. A moving force behind the Montrose Public Art eXperience, or PAX, Switzer got the council to agree to the concept of using outdoor art as a draw for tourists, and to allow sculptures to be installed on public property and rights of way.
Switzer’s proposal tied in with an earlier idea of Pope’s to get the town to clean up some spots that were run-down or weed-infested, he said; he even volunteered to tend to the areas if the town would plant some shrubs, but was turned down, due to liability issues.
But now Pope, along with Switzer and local sculptor Michael McCullough, are working to form a committee to get the project going. Pope says it could soothe some of the town’s economic issues, pointing to Grand Junction’s success with its long-running public art program, as an example.
“Grand Junction’s is out of this world, and their biggest tourist draw is Main Street,” he said.
Anyone who wants to serve on a citizens’ committee, get involved or just learn more about outdoor art in Ridgway is invited to a Jan. 14 meeting at the Fire House Gallery on North Lena Street at 10:30 a.m.
The chamber is no longer involved, Pope said, but Switzer is still working on the project and McCullough has lined up several artists willing to lend their work for public outdoor display. Others are lending their services, including sculptor John Billings of Billings Artworks, who makes the Grammy awards.
“I think it’s cool,” Billings said. “I already talked to someone who asked if I could help with the signage [for the displays], and I agreed to do that.”
Several other artists have agreed to have their works displayed, including Ridgway sculptor Bill Noland, who, like McCullough, has much of his work cast in bronze.
Once arrangements are finalized, Noland said, he will exhibit Stepping Out, his life-sized bronze replica of a faun that was most recently displayed in downtown Montrose as part of its PAX annual rotating sculpture exhibit.
After the outdoor art committee is finalized, a formal system for displaying and adding sculptures each year will be implemented; meanwhile, Pope said, it’s not too early to start with temporary displays on private property.
The Montrose PAX, which buys some sculptures every year, recently bought a bronze, titled Red Fox, by McCullough. A second Red Fox – an entirely different sculpture, he said – is now on display in front of the boutique at 195 South Lena.
Another bronze sculpture, Brandy, depicting a St. Bernard dog by Mary Zimmerman of Grand Junction, is on display in front of the Fire House Gallery on North Lena Street. Zimmerman is co-owner of the Lands End Sculpture Center and the Lands End Foundry in Paonia.
Town Manager Jen Coates has agreed to serve on the committee Pope said, and other locals, like equine sculptor Judy Nordquist.
What’s needed is for Ridgway to have an identity, and public art is a good way to start, Pope said.
“I’ve been to those economic development meetings where they talk about building an observatory because it’s so wide open here, but that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.