one stick at a time |

one stick at a time

Volunteer Colleen Widlak of Edwards helps build the Stickwork sculpture on Wednesday, June 13, in Vail. Widlak says she's happy to be apart of such a community-oriented project.
Chris Dillmann |

VAIL — Vail is known for its fine bronze and stone sculpture art around town, but a unique piece is currently being erected that makes use of a simpler medium — sticks.

Artist Patrick Dougherty has brought a “Stickwork” art sculpture, made entirely of tree saplings, to Vail through the town of Vail’s Art in Public Places program. The work began around Monday, June 4, and will take about three weeks to complete. The name of the sculpture will be revealed during an opening ceremony and ribbon cutting for the installation at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 22, at Ford Park in Vail.

The sticks used for this project are willow and were collected from a private ranch in Leadville, as well as Sylvan Lake State Park and Red Sandstone Elementary School. Dougherty said before starting a piece, he makes a visit to the installation site to scope it out, gather ideas and choose a kind of tree to work with. It will take anywhere from 4 to 6 tons of material to complete the sculpture.

The sculptures in Vail are based on Japanese jars, but as the project progresses, ideas can modify details. Seven of these stick sculptures will occupy part of Ford Park in Vail for two years. Dougherty said they should even be resistant to the snow and elements of Colorado.

300 Pieces Around the World

Dougherty has been creating these immense works of art with sticks since the early 1980s and has made nearly 300 pieces around the world. He said he decided to work with sticks because he was interested in the traditions and pastimes in which sticks are used. He also saw that the sticks stirred certain emotions in people.

“Ultimately, sculpture is about trying to make a situation that stimulates your feelings and makes you want to go look at it,” Dougherty said.

He said his pieces are hands on and he allows people to go inside them for an internal look at the sculptures.

Vail’s Art in Public Places program, which invited Dougherty to town, aims to promote art in public areas that is educational, aesthetically pleasing and that elicits wonder in residents and guests. As for Dougherty’s work, Molly Eppard, Art in Public Places coordinator, said it was a couple of years in the making to make it happen, but she already sees the excitement in people walking by and inquiring.

“It seemed like a perfect fit for a public art project,” she said, “especially in our environment.”

Eppard said it wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers, who play a role in all of Dougherty’s work. Volunteers for this project have come from around the state, Utah and even a couple from New Hampshire who extended their vacation to help out with the project.

Volunteer Colleen Widlak, of Edwards, said she’s excited to be a part of something she can walk by in the future and say she had a hand in creating.

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