Backers lobby Vail Town Council to fund sculpture of Vail ski area founder Pete Seibert
VAIL — For the past few years, Roger Tilkemeier has had a dream — “Pete’s Dream.” That dream may live or die this week.
Tilkemeier, a longtime Vail Valley resident, has been lobbying for a large sculpture honoring Vail co-founder Pete Seibert and the valley’s ranchers. If it can be funded, then the sculpture would be placed in Slifer Square, the area between the Vail Village Parking Structure and the Covered Bridge. That area is also home to the town’s popular sculpture of a 10th Mountain Division soldier.
Tilkemeier, the first person to build homes in East Vail, has partnered with Bill Rey, of Claggett-Rey Gallery, and sculptor Herb Mingery, who created a model of the sculpture, which features Seibert and a rancher on horseback. The current estimated cost is about $300,000.
Tilkemeier has taken the idea to the Vail Art In Public Places Board and to the Vail Town Council. The council in 2017 narrowly rejected a request for funding, with council members asking Tilkemeier to round up private donations to help pay for the project.
Council members encouraged Tilkemeier to return with a request in time for the town’s first supplemental budget appropriation. That budget amendment ordinance has its first public hearing Tuesday, March 6.
In the months since, the fundraising effort fell flat, Tilkemeier said. There’s simply too much competition in the nonprofit world. And, he added, the other long-time residents he approached believe the sculpture should be town-funded.
“People said it’s a civic project that should be funded by the town — that we shouldn’t have to raise money for this,” Tilkemeier said.
Longtime resident Diana Donovan agreed. Donovan said the town has money available, and the “Pete’s Dream” project is a worthy one.
Donovan, a former Vail Town Council representative on the Art in Public Places Board, said she believes there’s a demand for more traditional, realistic art that isn’t being met.
And, she added, one-time funding from the town makes sense when viewed in the long term.
“It’s a forever thing,” she said, adding that the work between Seibert and local ranchers needs to be commemorated.
“It’s a real important part of what Vail is,” Donovan said. “There are all kinds of things named for (the ranchers), but nothing that explains (why).”
The sculpture is something everyone can understand.
While Tilkemeier says he has a lot of support for the idea, that support isn’t universal.
Three of the council members who last year opposed town funding for the project — Kevin Foley, Greg Moffet and Jen Mason — remain on the council.
Some residents have also written to the council to encourage rejecting the proposal.
Former Town Council member Margaret Rogers, a current member of the Art in Public Places board, recently emailed the council with her objections.
In her email, Rogers wrote she believes the sculpture is “oversized and overpriced.”
Rogers added that if the council does financially support the project, the process should essentially start from scratch and go through the full Art in Public Places application and approval process.
Tilkemeier is nearing 90 years of age, and said he’d like to see “Pete’s Dream” come true sooner than later. He hopes the financial piece of the puzzle falls into place Tuesday.
If he’s rejected, then “it’s the end of it,” he said.
But, he added, the need for the memorial remains.
“This monument needs to be done,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.