Along with the football autographed by Peyton Manning and other items to be auctioned at a Nov. 1 event to raise money for student art programs in Douglas County, there will be this: the sculpture removed this summer from Castle Rock Town Hall after Mayor Paul Donahue expressed concerns it could be politically contentious.
Because of the controversy surrounding it, and because of the high quality of the $800 bronze — an 8-inch-high piece resembling a melting earth — there's buzz that it could sell for a significantly higher price at the upcoming masquerade ball at the Cielo at Castle Pines events center. The event is being put on by Stars for Douglas County, a nonprofit organization that supports visual arts in public schools.
“I've had several people in town tell me they're interesting in purchasing the piece,” said former Castle Rock Mayor Randy Reed, who was one of several people who urged the current mayor and council to reconsider the piece's removal — to no avail.
“Some people extremely like the art — and there are some people that are interested in having it because of the mayor's attempt to censor art,” Reed said.
The sculpture is currently in the care of Alison Stewart, art coordinator for the Stars program. She remembers the piece well because when it was bought by the Castle Rock Public Art Commission, she was the commission's chair.
Stewart said she thinks the town council's decision to remove it was “darn silly.” The commission members bought it because “it was a really, really nicely done piece.”
“It never occurred to any one of us that there might be political connotations,” she said about the piece, which was created by a New Mexico sculptor and is called “Global Warming.”
The piece was one of several small bronzes the commission — which is funded by a private company, individuals and an annual allocation from the Philip S. Miller Trust Fund — had bought and placed throughout town.
The decision to remove the sculpture happened at the Aug. 6 council meeting after Donahue told the council he noticed the statue and it occurred to him that “it really doesn't make sense for the Town of Castle Rock to be financing pieces of art that could advocate a certain political position.”
The consensus of the town council was to have Councilmember Clark Hammelman, the council's art-commission liaison, discuss the issue with the commission at its Aug. 8 meeting.
Hattie Reed, current commission chair and Randy Reed's wife, said that at the Aug. 8 meeting, Hammelman was asked if it would make a difference to remove the “Global Warming” plaque so that the then-nameless sculpture could remain, and he indicated it wouldn't. The commission then decided to remove the sculpture and donate it to the STARS organization.
After its removal, people expressing concerns addressed the council at its August and September meetings, including KC Neel, owner of Castle Rock Bike & Ski, who asked council, “Do you really think we're going to have artists come to a town that censors art?” Writer and local actor Denis Gessing presented a petition signed by about 80 artists and patrons at September's Castle Rock Artfest that asked town council to leave the sculpture in place.
And Randy Reed — who told Colorado Community Media he is hoping Castle Rock can someday have an arts district similar to Marfa, Texas, which is two hours from an airport but has people flocking to it for its artists and art galleries — told the council he didn't think this was the image the town wanted to project. And he asked them to return the sculpture to town hall. A couple councilmembers would later contact him to say they supported returning it, but he didn't hear from them again, he said.
Hattie Reed said the commission learned from this experience — “to be more conscientious in decision-making in placing art and removing art. Both.”
Next time, if this happens, she said the commission may not make such a quick decision — but will have the issue presented to them and then wait until the following month's meeting to make a decision. In the future, “We may go back to town council and look for a compromise.”
In the meantime, some people may be looking for and bidding on a sculpture at the Stars event, which will take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Cielo at Castle Pines, an events center at 485 W. Happy Canyon Drive.
Stewart said proceeds from last year's event resulted in three $1,000 college scholarships and five $1,000 grants given to visual art departments at three Douglas County schools.
For information about tickets, which also will be available at the door, go to http://www.stars4castlerock.com/masquerade-gala-2013/.