After years of waiting, Durango’s gateway art installation, “Common Threads,” is about to become a reality.
In 2018, Durango residents voted by survey to place the public art piece, made up of large, laser-cut metal panels, at the most highly traveled intersection in Durango, the U.S. Highway 550/160 interchange near the DoubleTree Hotel.
It is the same intersection where in 2014 the ill-fated Arc of History was installed, a $28,000 sculpture that received mixed reviews and became a favorite target for midnight pranksters who adorned the “rock-kabob” with dinosaur and dragon heads, among other decorations, before it was vandalized beyond repair in 2015.
The “Common Threads” installation was delayed when grant funding fell through and the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Now, it will be installed by the end of May, said Alex Rugoff, business development coordinator for the city of Durango.
“It’s really exciting. It’s a really great community project with local artists, students, 400 residents, six schools that all contributed,” Rugoff said. “It’s the gateway piece coming into (downtown) Durango.”
The final installation, created by Durango artists Allison Leigh Smith and Bryce Pettit, will include 20 steel panels. The artists held more than 25 meetings and spoke to hundreds of community members to get public input about the panel designs.
Cut outs depicting bears, birds, mountains, the Animas River and other mainstays of Southwest Colorado were included in the designs. The artists also incorporated designs and ideas from other artists in the community, including Sam Brigham, Durango’s Lego bomber.
The steel panels have been designed, cut and ready to install since 2019, when the project was delayed because of funding issues, Rugoff said.
The panels were funded by a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and $25,000 in funding and in-kind contributions from the city.
In late 2018, the city did not receive a second $25,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The project’s budget was cut in half, leaving the artists thinking of ways to scale it back. Donations from Mark McWhirter with Pacific Metal Cutting helped preserve its scope.
The city has issued a request for bids to find a contractor to assist with the installation. The bid is scheduled to close Monday. The installation will take seven to 10 days to complete and must be finished by May 31, when the grant funding expires, Rugoff said.
“This is the big, major public art piece we’ve done over the past two years,” he said. “It’ll be coming together pretty soon.”