Surls sculpture ‘perfect for Carbondale’ |

Surls sculpture ‘perfect for Carbondale’

A small crowd came out Thursday morning to witness the installation of James Surls’ sculpture “Sewing the Future” in Carbondale’s new roundabout.

They began to gather at around 9 a.m., as the sculpture arrived on a flatbed truck and the crane got in position, and grew in numbers as the process unfolded. Although the inside lane of the roundabout was closed, traffic continued to move smoothly.

“I’m very happy,” said Surls, who directed most of the action himself. “I think with landscaping and a year or so of weathering, it’s going to look really nice.”

It took about an hour to install the marble cladding around the base and mount the sculpture to the crane. A cheer went up as the 20-foot-tall bronze and steel piece settled onto its base and crews began to tighten the bolts.

Although the sculpture has been the subject of some controversy since it was approved 6-0 by the Carbondale Board of Trustees in July 2013, most of those who came out to see the installation were supporters of the project.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of things in this community, and this is the most fun,” said Jim Calaway, a local philanthropist who pledged half of the $200,000 material and manufacturing cost of the piece.

“I think it’s a stunning piece,” said area rancher Will Perry.

“It’s perfect for Carbondale,” agreed native Jorie Devilbiss. “It’s very creative and unique.”

Devilbiss’ mother, Peggy, observed that the piece was neither dwarfed by the roundabout or so large as to be distracting.

“It’s perfectly to scale,” architect John Baker agreed.

Several of those assembled, including Carbondale Chamber of Commerce director Andrea Stewart, remarked on the beautiful, if slightly chilly, weather for spectating. Others were looking forward to seeing it lit up against a dark sky. Crews from Robert Singer Lighting and R&A Electric are still putting the finishing touches on the LED lighting system, which uses less electricity than a 60 watt incandescent bulb.

“I can’t wait to see it at night,” said KDNK manager Steve Skinner.

A few watchers were willing to admit that “Sewing the Future” didn’t really speak to them.

“I think it will take some time to adjust to it,” said architect Katie Bauer.

Carbondale streets foreman Smiley Wise thinks that’s OK.

“Some people like it; some don’t,” he said.

Surls, an internationally recognized artist with work at the Smithsonian Institution, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art in New York and in major private collections, moved the Roaring Fork Valley in 1997 with his wife, Charmaine Locke, also a well-recognized artist, to raise their seven daughters.

It’s Surls’ first piece in the Rocky Mountains and one of the few he’s chosen not to make a profit on. He donated his labor for the work.

As the final adjustments were made and the crowd began to disperse, the tone was more business-like than celebratory. A champagne christening or ribbon cutting will have to wait for the public dedication planned as part of the Art aRound Town celebration Friday, June 5, once the lighting and landscaping is fully completed.

By noon, the crane departed to hang the new stoplight at Snowmass and Highway 133, leaving the sculpture standing sentinel over the town’s primary intersection.

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