Vail debates Bridge Street scenery |

Vail debates Bridge Street scenery

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyA granite stone piece stands at the top Bridge Street in Vail. Vail Resorts is talking about changing the large pieces of granite that are currently there.

VAIL – For Vail, the schedule is almost impossibly short.Between now and April 5 or so, the town’s Art in Public Places board needs to find, and have the Vail Town Council accept, a general idea for something new at Seibert Circle, the public plaza at the top of Bridge Street. The idea needs to be vague enough to allow the town’s customary time for debate on the final product, but specific enough to allow installation of gas and water lines during this year’s spring and fall work on the Vail Village streetscape project.Following a split vote to investigate replacing several pieces of granite sculpture by artist Jesus Moroles, the Vail Town Council also put the rapid deadline on its art advisory board. The Moroles sculptures, which cost more than $700,000, were put in the plaza in 1998. That, and a potential price tag of $1.4 million for anything new, is why three of the seven council members voted against the fresh start on the plaza. The four council members who voted for the redesign said the amount of work scheduled for Bridge Street this year provides a good opportunity to replace the sculptures.While the art board has just a couple of months to find at least a general answer, Leslie Fickling, the town’s public art supervisor, said the group has already put quite a bit of work into the problem.Working with consultant Brent Lloyd, a landscape architect, the art board over the last few months has decided to move closer to the ideas Seibert and other Vail founders first envisioned for the plaza.Those ideas came from looking at ski villages in Europe, and how their public plazas work, Fickling said.

Well, wellMost of those old villages have a community well in the town plaza, Fickling said, a holdover from days before indoor plumbing. Looking at community wells has art board members thinking about some sort of water feature. There are also discussions about adding some sort of “fire feature” to the plaza, perhaps some fire pits. Ironically, the town council that voted for the Moroles sculpture rejected ideas for a water feature at the site.Following a town-hosted open house about the future of the plaza, Ron Riley, who owns property at the top of Bridge Street, said he didn’t see much need to go beyond the fire and water features.”If the water and fire are done right, I wonder why you’d need anything else,” Riley said.But there are ideas for art being kicked around for art now, although nothing has been decided.One of those ideas is some sort of memorial to the famed World War II night assault on Riva Ridge in Italy by the 10th Mountain Division in 1945. Seibert and other Vail founders were veterans of that unit, which trained at Camp Hale between Red Cliff and Tennessee Pass.

No name? At Tuesday’s council meeting, most of those who spoke about the plaza favored a change, preferably to something more compatible with the village’s Bavarian style.”It has to fit with the Alpine village we have,” Pete Seibert Jr. said.Jim Cotter begs to differ. Cotter, owner of a gallery in the village, was the only unabashed fan of the Moroles sculpture to speak at Tuesday’s council meeting.”We’re a world class resort that brings in people from all over the world,” Cotter said later in the week. “Not everybody’s interested in frozen sculptures. We can’t make everything so homogenized.”Cotter said the original plans for the Moroles sculpture included fire and water.”They didn’t want to spend the money,” Cotter said. “Not doing the whole thing left it kind of incomplete.”Cotter said the art board should go back to Moroles to for an estimate on putting in the fire and water elements he had planned.

Given the sentiment expressed at the meeting, though, that’s unlikely. In fact, Fickling said, she’s already had preliminary talks with Moroles about moving the sculpture. While the town owns the piece, the purchase contract gives the artist some control over what happens to it.”We need to notify the artists if we alter or move the piece,” Fickling said. “We’re going to work with him to come up with something. If he doesn’t agree with what we do, we’d need to take his name off of it. That would greatly reduce its value.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or, Colorado

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