Windmills will soon be spinning |

Windmills will soon be spinning

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Drivers on I-70 will be soon be staring at Vail Golf Course like confused 21st century Don Quixotes, tilting their heads and sorting out the significance of 2,700 glowing windmills spinning in the breeze.

“What in blazes are they?” the tourists ask.

“What do they mean?” the skeptics ask.

“Did I pay for that?” the Vail taxpayers ask.

Denver artist Patrick Marold will begin installing these windmills next week on a hillside near Vail Golf Course. Each windmill will be about 8 feet tall and fitted with a small light that will turn on when the wind blows.

Already though, the Windmill Project is provoking the tempers, imaginations and brimming idealism of our community. Just the idea of it is wasteful to some people, while others see it as a colorful spot on a rapidly expanding town.

Then there’s the environmental aspect. The windmills are also meant to be a reminder of Vail’s commitment to offsetting 100 percent of its electricity use with wind power credits, ushering in a new age of green mountain living.

So without even being built yet, this strange field of art is provoking a lot of conversation, and that’s how it should be, said Leslie Fordham, the Art in Public Places coordinator for Vail.

“Some people will laugh, some people will be cynical, but I’d prefer that people would have an opinion rather than be complacent,” Fordham said. “It’s meant to entertain and provoke comment and question, let people think and let their imaginations run wild.”

While any original interpretation is encouraged and even desired, it’s hard to avoid the environmental symbolism in the project.

“It’s a reminder that we need to find other ways to meet our energy needs,” Fordham said. “But, it can mean so many things to so many people.”

The Windmill Project is provoking discussion about the true benefits of offsetting Vail’s energy use with windpower credits. While buying windpower is a great start, it shouldn’t be used in place of real conservation, said Matt Scherr, director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability.

“It should really be used to offset things that you can’t eliminate or reduce,” Scherr said. “We have to be more conscientious of our energy consumption in general. There’s more to it than just offsetting everything with wind credits.”

There are also different interpretations of the public benefit of the art itself. Will this be a good use of $94,500 in tax money?

“If it cultivates town culture, gets people into our shops and gets them talking about culture ” yeah, it’s a good use,” Fordham said.

Others, such as Vail resident Sue Mason, see it as a waste of money. She’d rather see the money used on things like better wages for bus drivers, police officers and other public servants.

“I like art in public places, but I want it to be relevant art,” Mason said. “I feel this is a throwaway, a one month deal for $100,000.”

Her idea of good public art is the 10th Mountain Division Statue in Vail Village.

“I did guest services there for six years, and everyone wanted their picture by that statue ” I must have taken a million of them,” Mason said.

Then again, it could be just an art exhibit, something that shows the beauty of the natural world. Marold said the windmills “will reveal the shape of the wind with a living presentation of momentary light.”

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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