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Turning wind into a work of art

Caramie SchnellVail CO, Colorado
AE Windmills2 PU 3-14-07
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VAIL – Their motives were split: half altruistic, half slightly more self-serving. Eight Vail Christian High School students skipped their last class on Wednesday to help artist Patrick Marold and his team install windmills on a hillside adjacent to the Vail Golf Course.

“I love art and it was an escape from seventeenth period,” said sophomore Jessica Linder. The exhibit, which will be up until Earth Day, April 22, is part of Vail’s Art in Public Places program and features 2,700 8-foot-tall windmills. Best viewing for the exhibit, which is about a half mile from I-70 is at night – come darkness, Marold’s windmills will sculpt wind into light, he said. Upon arrival at the site, Marold’s wife, Audrey, gave the students a quick tutorial on the windmills.”Vail is using this project to promote renewable energy, but it’s strictly an art exhibit,” she said.

She showed the students how the windmills work – spinning the three rotors with her hands. Inside is a generator that powers an LED light inside, which illuminates the clear polycarbonate tube it’s attached to. The speed of the wind determines the brightness of the exhibit, Patrick Marold said.The science component of the exhibit is what attracted Vail Christian science teacher Amy Flaming to the project. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to involve the kids in a hands on project,” she said. “We’ve been talking about renewable energy in my freshman class. I thought it was a good learning experience to see (the exhibit) in action – it’s beautiful and it’s about conserving energy,” she added.

Though Patrick Marold said his original intention wasn’t to promote wind power, he’s all for any support the project garners for energy conservation.”It’s obvious that anyone that thinks we don’t need to go clean and start thinking about different energy forces is fooling themselves,” he said. As Audrey Marold told the kids that many of the windmills need to be checked because they were jostled in transit, two snowshoers trekking on the Nordic path below stopped to observe the activity.”Is it art?” yelled Carol Todreas, who is visiting the valley from Boston with her husband, Neil, she said.After explaining the exhibit, as well as the thinking behind it, Todreas grinned.”This exhibit really stimulates your thinking,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”Between throwing snowballs and tackling each other in the snow, the teenagers took turns rotating through various “jobs.”

Part of the group packed down an area of snow with snowshoes to prep the area for drilling; some packed down the snow around the installed windmills to keep them steady; two people used Allen wrenches to attach wind cups to the hubs of the windmills. A couple of other kids carried the fixed windmills, navigating hundreds of standing ones, to areas of the hillside not yet filled.”It was cool being up there,” Linder said. “Assembling the windmills was the most tedious, but it was fun.”

Working alongside the artist was Linder’s favorite part, she said. She was unsure about what the project was about and why Marold was putting up windmills, so she asked him, she said.”He talked about how where he lived, in Iceland, there was only three hours of daylight and lots of wind so he just decided to put that into a project – that was his inspiration,” she said. Morgan Wyrick, also a sophomore, said she volunteered because she’s interested in energy conservation.”Solar power, wind power, any of it – it’s just fun to help support that,” she said. “To watch all the windmills turning – that was really cool.” In the next few weeks, Wyrick hopes to go and see the exhibit at night, she said.”To see the wind patterns with the lights – that would be really neat,” she said. Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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