Vail could spend $260,000 to relocate sculpture
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Art is subjective, and so might be the decision to spend money on art pieces during times of economic stress and uncertainty.
On Tuesday, the Vail Town Council will decide whether to spend about $95,000 of real estate transfer tax funds to help relocate a piece of artwork that has been sitting in storage for five years. The total cost of relocating the project is expected to be about $260,000.
The artwork, a Stonehenge-like sculpture by Jesus Moroles, a world-renowned sculptor, was once installed in Vail Village’s Seibert Circle and was removed after receiving a lot of criticism for not fitting in with the town, which raises the question of whether spending $95,000 to relocate it to Ford Park is a wise fiscal decision in these economic times.
Vail Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim Lamont said the town has been successful with its temporary art exhibits and isn’t convinced permanent installations the town ends up stuck with are the way to go.
“What, down the road, do we need to do to keep this economy afloat?” Lamont said. “I’m of the mind that art installations don’t do it.”
Councilwoman Margaret Rogers is passionate about getting the piece out of storage and back into the public eye. She believes the piece, especially because of the rising stardom of Moroles in the art world, could absolutely become an economic driver.
“The Art in Public Places board was designed to bring destination art to attract people to Vail, and we own this incredibly valuable piece,” Rogers said. “Art lovers – that’s a niche in the travel industry we’d like to get a bigger piece of.”
Rogers said Moroles is a significant enough artist to attract people to town just to see the piece.
“Particularly for people coming from Texas, where he is extremely supported and where he lives and has a studio,” Rogers said.
Real estate transfer tax funds can be used for things like parks, recreation, open space and environment, with a decent amount of flexibility, Town Manager Stan Zemler said, which is why he said spending the funds on the art piece’s relocation to Ford Park is easily justified.
Lamont thinks the town often suffers from a “money burning a hole in their pockets mentality.”
Rogers said her support for spending the real estate transfer tax money to relocate it doesn’t mean she’s not concerned about money and future budgets, however budget concerns within that fund are not as pressing as general fund concerns, she said.
She said real estate transfer tax money will keep coming in as units continue to sell in the projects that were part of the town’s so-called Billion Dollar Renewal.
The value of the piece, which Rogers believes could top $2 million once it’s reinstalled, makes the money to relocate it well worth it, she said.
“I think we’re getting a lot of bang for our buck,” Rogers said.
Councilwoman Susie Tjossem, who admits she’s not much of an art expert, said the town has this expensive piece of art by a sculptor with a worldwide following just dumped in storage.
Tjossem defends spending the $95,000 – which is in addition to another $160,000 previously set aside for the project for a total of about $260,000 – because she said the council has made wise budget decisions and there is some wiggle room within the real estate transfer tax fund.
“I consider this a strategic move of strengthening our position for the future,” Tjossem said. “The longer it sits, the more it will cost to have it reinstalled.”
Lamont said the town could be jumping the gun. He thinks the money shouldn’t be spent just because it’s available.
“We have no idea what the impacts are going to be of unemployment in Eagle County and we haven’t really shown we can fill the rooms at all of these new hotels we have now, and we’re going to run out and spend more money,” Lamont said.
He thinks the money should be spent on proven economic drivers, such as the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, for example. The gardens have struggled with fundraising throughout the last two years, said Executive Director Ann Kurronen.
About 100,000 people per year stroll through the Alpine Gardens, and that organization’s demise would be a huge detriment to the town, Lamont said.
He said the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and Vail International Dance Festival could also suffer from funding problems in the future, and those are the types of cultural attractions that Vail really can’t afford to lose.
“That’s why the money should be held – we’re just at the beginning, opening phase of our economic condition,” he said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.
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