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Roundabout sculpture fund-raising under way

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Installation slated for October

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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Houston and Carbondale don’t seem to have much in common.

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Houston boasts a population of 2.1 million, while Carbondale logs in at about 6,000.

Houston sits near the Gulf of Mexico, while Carbondale rests in the Rocky Mountains.

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Houston is generally hot and muggy, while Carbondale is cool and dry.

Houston is home to a National Football League team, while Carbondale must rely on the Roaring Fork Rams for its football fix.

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And, Houston probably has more yoga studios than Carbondale.

So, what’s one noticeable similarity between Houston and Carbondale? Come October, Carbondale’s soon-to-be roundabout at Highway 133 and Main Street will be graced with a 20-foot-tall James Surls sculpture, the 35-foot sister piece of which was installed at a prominent intersection in Houston’s Upper Kirby district earlier this month.

Once again, however, there’s a difference between the two towns. Houston’s Surls sculpture cost private donors $800,000, while the noted sculptor is giving the town “Sewing the Future” at his cost — $200,000.

Jim and Connie Calaway have donated $100,000 for the cause and a team of locals, including Connie, has kicked off a drive to raise the rest.

“The Surls sculpture, centered in our new roundabout, is something our community can share with each other and our visitors,” said Jim Calaway, a retired oil-man and philanthropist. “It is intended to signify growth, has the potential to attract tourism, inspire creativity and add to our community’s sense of place. It will be the signature of our town.”

According to a hand-out prepared by the fund-raising team, “Sewing the Future” flows upward from a “standing vase” that is a metaphoric symbol of the female, giving forth the thread of life in all of its ways. The thread is placed through the eye of three needles, which represent human nature and includes art, science and philosophy. The sculpture’s other three elements include the jewel, the flower and the tree, which Surls has used for years.

“All of these elements derive from the very nature that gives us our existence on the earth,” Surls said. “The jewel is the equal to and represents the crystal in all its forms … . Parallel to this are the flower and the tree, both of which humans would be hard pressed to live without.”

Surls, a Texas native, moved to Missouri Heights several years ago and works out of a hangar-like studio near his home.

The idea

Fund-raising-team member Sue Edelstein said the idea for a Surls sculpture was hatched by herself and fellow Carbondale Public Arts Commission  (CPAC) member Sherrill Stone about six years ago. At the time, there were no official CDOT plans for a roundabout on Highway 133 but the two women thought if there ever were one, a Surls sculpture should be placed in the center. The arts commission agreed and voted for the sculpture — if and when the roundabout was built.

Upon that vote, Edelstein and Stone drove up to Surls’s studio and made their pitch. “He immediately said yes,” Edelstein told The Sopris Sun. “We shook (hands) on it.”

Unknown to Edelstein when she and Stone first came up with their plan, Jim Calaway knew the sculptor and was a supporter dating back to their Houston days.

Finally, last summer, the Carbondale Board of Trustees held a public meeting to solicit other proposals or ideas for the roundabout. Nobody else proposed anything for the roundabout, let alone donating a sculpture, and the trustees voted 7-0 to allow the Surls piece.

The town’s landscaping plan for the roundabout shows ground-hugging flowers with the Surls sculpture atop a five-foot base, bringing the entire package to about the same height as the existing traffic light standards – which will go away when the roundabout goes in.

With Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Edelstein said “Sewing the Future” will first come into view for south-bound motorists at about the Family Dollar store. She said CPAC has plans for four pads on Highway 133 leading up to the roundabout that will support sculptures in the on-going aRT Around Town program.

Fund-raising team members Connie Calaway, Edelstein, Jody Ensign and Jay Walker Lodge Director Mark Kloster spoke enthusiastically about the Surls sculpture placement during a recent meeting in Edelstein’s art-packed home in River Valley Ranch.

Calaway and Edelstein are focusing on large donors, while Ensign and Kloster will reach out to other community members. At least one donor is already on board at the $20,000 level.

The community will get it first good look at a “Sewing the Future” scale model during the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce’s Highway 133 construction open house at Sopris Shopping Center on May 12. The push will continue during June’s First Friday celebration, at which time a new lineup of aRT Around Town sculptures will be unveiled. Surls himself is scheduled to discuss the sculpture, and his thoughts on public art, during upcoming Rotary club meetings and other gatherings.

Beyond bragging rights, and giving town residents, tourists and others an intriguing piece of sculpture to enjoy and contemplate, the fund-raising team said the placement should have a positive economic benefit for Carbondale.

“It’s called ‘art tourism’,” Edelstein explained. “People will go out of their way to see art.”

For example, she said she knows of a Dallas group that is coming to Colorado and is planning its stops around a Vail museum, the Aspen Art Museum and a private collection.

“This will bring people off of Highway 82,” Edelstein concluded, with the implication those people will stick around and eat in Carbondale restaurants and support other businesses.

For more information on the Surls sculpture fund-raising project, e-mail  surlsroundaboutsculpture@gmail.com.

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