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Our View: Placing public art part of our purview

The newest piece of public art, created in a thorough citizen effort, is in limbo. Fortunately, for the city of Durango, we are here to help. Add to our many skills, an expertise in placing public art.

Completed three years ago, “Common Threads,” a 150-foot-long series of 19 laser-cut steel panels, was ready for installation, but has been shuttered away since 2019. It’s time for the debut of this collaborative public art, created by many hundreds of hands. But where?

Its initial location was set for the raised median on Camino del Rio near U.S. Highway 160, commonly referred to as the DoubleTree intersection in Durango. But this spot has proven to be problematic. No contractor has wanted to touch it or deal with the center-of-the-highway location that would involve traffic control.

Place this expansive public art installation on the east side of Highways 550 and 160 at the T-intersection, at or north of the flagpole. It would largely face west toward drivers coming from Mancos and Cortez, but would be angled to the northwest so drivers from the south would at least partially see its considerable length.

This location is ideal and suits our moniker of Welcome-to-Durango – Durango-Embraces-Public-Art.

Here’s why. This confusing intersection requires complete attention. It’s not the place for drivers to take their eyes off the road, crane their necks, and try to make out the 4- and 8-foot high cutout panels depicting two- and four-legged area occupants and recreationists. Safety first.

Northbound drivers negotiate the downward curve to the right after passing the single lane on the left that provides a route to the west, avoiding the intersection. And while the posted speed limit is 35, drivers tend to exceed this.

The best and safest view, of course, would be when stopped at the light.

For the actual installation, there looks to be plenty of room for construction trucks to maneuver with no impact on traffic. To add nighttime lights, power must be close by.

One more another reason to give up the initial spot between the lanes’ location. See? We told you we’re good at this.

Guerrilla art is popular in Durango – most recently the blue kayak pointing skyward at the intersection for Animas River Days. For guerrilla artists who can’t resist, the panels’ east side location would make decoration safer and easier. We don’t want to lose any guerrilla artists to a highway.

We look forward to the unveiling of “Common Threads,” a concept by Durango artists Allison Leigh Smith and Bryce Pettit.