Outdoor sculptures aim to spark conversations
by Molly Marcello
The Times-Independent
Nov 02, 2017 | 4376 views | 0 0 comments | 149 149 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michael Ford-Dunton, a Castle-Valley based sculptor and co-founder of Moab ArTTrails speaks about his “Forces at Play V” sculpture this October. His piece, as well as 15 other sculptures, is now on display throughout downtown as part of a public sculpture exhibition.
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Moab ArTTrails representatives hope community members will weigh in on the public sculpture exhibit currently on view at 16 sites downtown. The pieces, on display until October 2018, range in theme from sculptural landscapes to human form, and organizers say they might spark conversations about place and meaning.

“[The sculptures] should serve as a lever for conversation … more conversations about what forms and symbols have meaning for our community,” said Moab ArTTrails co-founder Christy Williams-Dunton. “What is public space and what are the stories that we need to hold for our identity, for what we consider Moab’s soul?”

Williams-Dunton said community members and visitors could ponder these questions as they visit the pieces, installed at various sites throughout Moab City including the Mill Creek Parkway, Center Street, 100 North and 100 South.

“[The exhibit] kind of changed the complexion of the side streets overnight,” Williams-Dunton said. “We really hope that people take a moment to do the little loop. We’re curious, what does old Moab think about it?”

Votes for the “People’s Choice” award for a particular sculpture — whose winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize — can be cast throughout the year online at the Moab ArTTrails website, or through physical ballots available at the Moab Information Center and other sites downtown.

In addition to the “People’s Choice” winner, Williams-Dunton said at least one of the pieces will be purchased and become part of the community’s permanent public art collection.

Williams-Dunton and her husband, Castle Valley-based sculptor Michael Ford Dunton, established Moab ArTTrails in 2015 to expand opportunities for both residents and visitors to experience “quality works of art” in public spaces.

Their first public art offering launched in fall 2015 with the installation of Dunton’s “Forces at Play,” four 9-foot-tall sculptures on the Colorado River Bridge.

According to the Duntons, that event gave them the momentum and support to work towards a year-round sculpture exhibition that would physically establish an “art trail” through Moab.

A local committee was formed this year, tasked with selecting artworks using criteria like quality, durability and safety. The committee also searched for “fit,” or for pieces with aesthetic relevance to the surroundings and the “unique personality” of the Moab community.

Harold Linke, an artist from Evergreen, Colo., contributed his “Running Girl” sculpture to the exhibit, now on display on Mill Creek Parkway. He told The Times-Independent that Moab’s first annual sculpture exhibition has quality work that “tells a story.”

“There are pieces that arrest you, that you need to stop and think about ‘whats happening here,’” Linke said. “People will see meanings they hadn’t thought about … if you want to take the time to learn about sculpture and learn about yourself at the same time, boy that’s a great walk.”’

Ekaterina Tatarovich-Harrison, an artist from La Sal, contributed two pieces to the show — “Solitude” on Center Street and “The End” on the Mill Creek Parkway. She expressed appreciation to the Duntons for getting this art into the open for the community to enjoy.

“Artwork should be there to be enjoyed by everybody — by children, by people that may never choose to visit a museum,” Tatarovich-Harrison said. “Hopefully they see something in the sculpture that triggers some sort of exploration or idea or feeling that will lead to some sort of deeper inner exploration … that’s what’s valuable about public sculpture, especially in the realm of being outside and not controlled by a curator’s eyes.”

According to Moab ArTTrails, in addition to many private donors and sponsors, municipal leaders made this project happen. The City of Moab supported the project with $5,500 in funds through an “Art in Public Places” item in their capital projects fund and Grand County gave $3,300 through their community development department budget.

“Truly, one of our primary reasons for implementing Moab ArTTrails was to improve quality of life for residents, inspire youth and other demographic groups to make art, stimulate creative thinking in general, and to attract and foster creative class employment opportunities,” said Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine. “In my opinion, the program is a win-win for non-tourism and tourism-related community development.”

According to Moab Arts and Special Events Manager Meg Stewart, the sculpture exhibition is a visual reminder that other interests exist locally beyond the outdoor recreation economy.

“It’s a really visible way for Moab to express itself and to let visitors know that there’s so much more here than just mountain biking and jeeping and outdoor recreation,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot of depth to our community, a lot of arts in our community … it has been incredibly thrilling to see Moab show itself in a new way.”

Dunton hopes the community will begin to feel proud of its public art.

“One of the initial things we were shooting for is pride, pride in the art,” Dunton said. “If you take pride in the art that you have, and especially when you have more permanent art, people begin to identify with it.”

He said he’s already caught himself — and others — giving directions using the sculptures, proof that this identification process is taking place.

“I’ve already heard people giving directions based on the sculptures,” Dunton said. “I also found myself naturally doing that ‘go up to the head sculpture, then to the green sculpture.’”

But unless those sculptures become part of the permanent collection, Williams-Dunton joked, then the lexicon might become “it’s right where the head used to be.”

The Duntons encourage the community to give feedback, take photos using the hashtag #MoabArTTrails, and of course vote for their favorite piece on moabarttrails.org.

“We want your feedback,” Dunton said. “We’re looking for it … because [next year] we’ll re-convene the selection committee and choose the People’s Choice and the Best of Show in our price range.”

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