Centennial pole a work of community-engaged art | PostIndependent.com

Centennial pole a work of community-engaged art

Willa Kane
Frontier Historical Society
The Centennial Community Pole, depicting important aspects of the community of Glenwood Springs, is set into place during its dedication in Two Rivers Park on Aug. 24, 1985. The sculpture remained in place until April 17, 2015.
Staff Photo |

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

— Aristotle

Glenwood Springs turned 100 years old in August 1985. To mark the historic event, community members planned a great celebration. It was to be a celebration commemorating those pioneers who worked so hard to make Glenwood Springs a reality. It was a celebration marking the recent improvements to the town. It was a celebration to bring the community to the future.

One difference loomed large between this celebration marking the 100th anniversary and the celebration that had been held in August 1935 marking the 50th anniversary. Mortality. Fifty years earlier, the celebration was a reunion of many of those founding pioneers who brought their memories and wisdom to a community trying not to forget its past. These pioneers were gone. The question became how to also honor them.

The answer came in the form of community-engaged art. Community-engaged art allows a community to express itself through the artistic process in a public place. Often professional artists collaborate on the project, with non-artists creating the art.

A committee decided the commemoration should be in the form of a log sculpture 23 feet tall, 3 feet in diameter at the top, and 4 feet in diameter at the bottom. The tree harvested for what was to become known as the Community Centennial Pole was a 244-year-old white spruce from Triangle Park. To prepare the log for carving, the bark was removed by carvers Jeff Harris, John Batka, Floyd Casebeer and Marian Clayton. During the Strawberry Days celebration on June 19, 1985, the log was transported by fork-lift into the central strip area of the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood Springs. Here the log would be publicly transformed into sculpture.

Many individuals offered input on the images to be carved upon the sculpture, with Diane Arbaney and Jeri Rodges sketching the designs selected. Columbines carved by first-time carver Diane Arbaney bloomed at the base of the sculpture with her hummingbird appearing above. Above the columbines was a jumping trout carved by first-time carver Jeri Rodgers. Teacher and wood carver Ole (Gerold) Oldsen carved the Herford cow and calf, the four aces (a tribute to Glenwood Springs’ early gambling days), the buffalo, the coke ovens, and the bald and golden eagles. Oldsen assisted Amy Henderson, the project’s youngest carver, with the Ute Indian woman and horse, and assisted Jeri Rodgers with the image of Hanging Lake and waterfall. Dean Randall carved the railroad image as well as the image of the bighorn ram. Sheriff Verne Soucie carved the likenesses of Doc Holliday and President Theodore Roosevelt into the sculpture. To honor Strawberry Days, Ole Oldsen, Lou Trappani and Helen Oldsen adorned the log with strawberries, strawberry flowers and leaves. Chipeta and Ouray were carved by Lou Trappani and Ole Oldsen. Aspen leaves appear over the sculpture, carved by Helen Oldsen, and George Colton, who at age 86 was the oldest carver on the project. The carver of the monument’s skier is unknown, while the pointed top of the sculpture to honor Mount Sopris was completed by Ole Oldsen and George Colton.

Tying the images together was the carving of the Glenwood Springs Centennial Emblem, designed by Jim Henderson, containing images of the Hotel Colorado, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, and Hot Springs Lodge, with “Glenwood Springs 1885-1985” circling the image. The image was carved by Lou Trappani. In addition to the 13 carvers donating their time, numerous Glenwood Springs businesses and individuals donated services, materials and cash in the amount of about $30,000. Metal plates at the base of the sculpture recorded the names of the donors.

As the summer matured, mall shoppers watched the progress of the sculpture as it was carved, sanded and polished, with the sculpture officially completed Aug. 20, 1985. On Aug. 24, 1985, as part of the Glenwood Springs Centennial Celebration, the sculpture was transported to the newly dedicated Two Rivers Park, where it was presented to the city of Glenwood Springs, and “permanently raised for all to see for years to come.”

In 1994, the Community Centennial Pole was included in the Save Outdoor Sculptures Project, which was “the first comprehensive national survey of publicly accessible outdoor art.” This survey was to increase awareness about the need to preserve and care for outdoor public monuments.

When it was determined the elements had taken its toll on the sculpture, the Centennial Community Pole was removed from its base in Two Rivers Park on April 17, 2015, and placed into storage. While its future is uncertain, it is certain that for 30 years the monument represented the bridging of a gap between the past, present and future through the effort of community art.

Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum at 1001 Colorado Ave. in Glenwood Springs. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, which will be closed until May 10 for spring cleaning and the installation of new exhibits. It will re-open to the public on Monday, May 11, with summer hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday). For more information, call (970) 945-4448 or email history@rof.net.

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