From the sculptors of Salida, we the undersigned do proclaim:

From the sculptors of Salida, we the undersigned do proclaim:

After working so hard through channels to get public art sanctioned, chosen, and installed this year, we the artists with large scale installation experience and potentials got a lump of coal in our stockings from the City Council, and especially pointedly from City staff Dara McDonald and Michael Varnum.

You may have seen Shark’s sculpture at the SteamPlant and Shelby’s across from the Community Center, but there was a 3rd that was supposed to be commissioned and installed before the end of 2014 for a grand total of $10,000 spent on art this year. That last sculpture was supposed to happen after the Public Arts Task Force finished their work as to future applications and calls. At the last city council meeting Dara said there was no money in the budget for 2015, but I stressed that this was ‘old business’. (I had also reminded Michael at least a half dozen times since May 1.) I reiterated that this remaining $3000 plus installation money at about $350 was set aside for an artist in 2014, and through the in person process, I got the council to agree to earmark that money for 2015, and said that I and others would be at the first meeting to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.

What I also found out standing at the podium was that if I hadn’t spoken up, that money would have sunset on Jan. 1 and been absorbed into the general reserve fund and could be spent on anything else in 2015, thus robbing an artist of an existing opportunity and some small city sanctioned livelihood in our home town. Michael Varnum was nowhere to be found, in person or informative posting or counciling about the potential of this loss, and once contacted, feigned ignorance of the process and this negative potential impact on the arts and artists. Through another source, I also gleaned that a sculpture HAD been picked and was to be commissioned in August, but Michael never followed through and hoped no one would notice till it fell off the cliff Jan. 1. Michael would not divulge the selected artist, and my colleagues also stated that it was a requirement that any applying artist needed to be at the MANDATORY onsite walk through of installation sites, or was not qualified for this commission. Maybe that is a reason for his secrecy as to the noncommissioned sculpture.

When questions I submitted to Sandy Ferrel at KHEN were put to Dara last Friday, I was again shocked by a minute offhand statement that there had been $10,000 in the 2015 budget for sculptures, but oh well, that had to be cut to balance the whole! When I further asked by email, I was corrected… there wasn’t $10,000 potential, but $25,000!!! This was under consideration at a work session in September and was instantly red lined, with no protestation from Michael Varnum! Or any artists, because we were never told about the potential, and thus were not aware of the need or opportunity to petition city government for 3 months to try to keep the public arts aspect of Salida alive.

These two aspects would be enough to send a ‘home town first’ sensitive artist over the edge… but it comes in threes. My Councilman Mike Bowers asked Dara about the four new giant red hearts around town, and how much they cost. I wondered this too, and followed up this week and got the gut wrenching answer that no artists were contacted, no calls for these were put out, and they just appeared… after staff paid $10,160 to a manufacturer in Oregon. Unbelievable, but still shocking standard of the administrative industry.

When the arts and the artists are treated this way, the idea of ‘we’re all in this together’ rings hollow in the ears of those whose talents and persona are the actual basis of staff’s weekly check, which they seem to forget. I and others know we have a WKRP staff situation so much of the time, and some things can be forgiven, but deliberate non-communication, misinformation, or non-dedication to informative cooperative city/arts business is stunningly insulting and gives the word ‘community’ from staff’s mouth, a bad taste in ours. I would ask that staff act respectfully from now on, but that affirmation has worn thread bare over the last 2 1/2 years.

Merry Christmas to our colleagues in art, our town, and our friends! To you the bureaucrats, administrators, and harrumphing parts of the Council… We and others will take your lump of coal, show it to your face, and make a diamond of it for ourselves, our town, and those who respect the arts. With or without your help, OUR art and efforts are not empty, and will continue on no matter what.

Jimmy Descant, artist, Salida Christopher ‘Shark’ Lambdin, artist, Salida Curtis Killorn, artist, Salida Shelby Cox, artist, Salida

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

27 Responses to “From the sculptors of Salida, we the undersigned do proclaim:”

  1. Joe

    While I'd certainly rather see money spent locally than in Oregon, why do we residents of Salida need to be forced to subsidize your work, or anyone's work? What's wrong with the idea of this going back into the general fund?

    Can't we fix our crappy roads instead of subsidizing certain people while ignoring others?

    How many potholes will $10,000 or $25,000 fix?

    Which other professions should we subsidize?

    Like (4)
    • Jimmy Descant

      Well Joe, this is supposed to be an arts town, among other avenues, and if the city is opening their checkbooks for big hearts anyway, they should have the heart to commission an artist to complete this project. The arts are a crucial part of lifting the souls of Man, and necessary for society. Actually more necessary than pothole fixes.

      Like (11)
  2. Louise Fish

    I do wish Jimmy would get his facts straight. The hearts are Christmas decoration as are the flags in downtown. I suspect that all Christmas decorations were purchased from the same source. Perhaps Jimmy could find out.

    As I understand, the decision on the sculptures was made by or at least influenced by the temporary art committee named by the city. Perhaps the committee only found 2 entries that they wanted displayed in the city and will have another request in 2015. Why not ask William Boddy who chaired the committee at his opening at the SteamPlant on Friday. (Did I spell William's last name correctly?)

    Jimmy you could become a part of the entire Salida Art Scene and attend free Creative District events and other art events at the SteamPlant instead of complaining and finding problems where there aren't any.

    Like (11)
    • Jimmy Descant

      Hi Louise, I have contradict you as to facts, but you are way off and too general. Yes, the hearts are supposed to be Christmas decorations, BUT we the local artists could have built these ourselves and were never given the chance. The PROBLEM is not my complaint but the FACT that $10,000 ($2560 each) was spent for store bought pieces when community solidarity would have gone a long way by commissioning an artist to do the exact same thing if they wanted. I have talked, consulted, advised, and recommended as to all aspects of local and public art to staff, and Boddy, and it falls on deaf ears as considerations for artists and the city future. I was making sure that third sculpture was commissioned and from my findings, the money was about to be ... let's say, usurped, through inaction and lack of informing. And I believe on purpose. I did my research, please do yours.

      Like (1)
  3. Steve Stewart

    I can't comment on the communication process - I'm sure work needs to be done there. But I and many community members fully support using some city funds to commission public art. Let's be clear about who makes the decision about how much funding is available and where that funding is directed. It is the City Council, not the City Administrator who decides that. The administrator - Dara - carries out the wishes of Council.

    If any of us are unhappy that the City doesn't support public art at the level desired or has concerns about the process please contact these six council members who are ultimately accountable for public funding or provision of art in Salida:

    Keith Baker, Council Member - Ward 1
    719-539-2720 [email protected]

    Hal Brown, Council Member - Ward 1
    719-221-8176 [email protected]

    Eileen Rogers, Council Member - Ward 2
    719-539-4040 [email protected]

    Tom Yerkey, Council Member - Ward 2
    719-539-3427 [email protected]

    Mike Bowers, Council Member - Ward 3
    719-530-1580 [email protected]

    Melodee Hallett, Council Member - Ward 3
    719-539-4659 [email protected]

    Like (8)
  4. Jeff Auxier

    This is a great debate. It could and should have taken place in October, November and December, 2013 if the City's 2014 budget had contained a line item of "$10,000" with a notation "Public art / sculpture." The 2014 Budget does not contain such a line item:

    Steve, the City Council cannot approve what it cannot see, so it is somewhat revisionist history to put this back in the council's lap. Last year there were about 8 or 9 different 2014 budgets produced from September through December 2013, none of them easy to read, all in different formats, with detail obscured, obfuscated or missing. Some appeared and disappeared from the city's website.

    Nor can citizens rationally comment or critique if a detailed budget (which is really a plan of operation and statement of goals and values for the next fiscal year) is not made available by October 15 as required by state law. It is also very helpful if budget detail is in the same format each year.

    It is also proper to actually include the line item "Appendix" the City waived around last year and this IN the budget packet approved by council. Otherwise, the Appendix is like a John Grisham novel - fairly good fiction with little basis in reality, and no binding effect on the Administration.

    Perhaps some day our Administration will take its budgeting responsibilities more seriously, or perhaps next year we'll get a council or mayor that will make it do so. This year three council members voted against approval of the 2015 budget at least in part, I think, based on its lack of detail and accountability.

    As individuals, we cannot always expect to get what we want in the budget, or get our way on any particular decision, but we have an absolute right to clear knowledge of what the choices are so we can intelligently comment and debate. This is what past councils and the present majority have deprived us of, the ability to intelligently comment and debate. They have allowed the Administration to produce cursory, broad budgets with unexplained line items in the hundreds of thousand of dollars. It is the antithesis of proper democracy.

    Like (9)
    • Jimmy Descant

      Thanks Jeff. The $10,000 for 2014 was apprpriated out of the general fund in March as a special funding for 3 Creative District sign/sculptures ONLY because I raised a simple question at first, then holy hell with Varnum when I was rebuffed and ignored about there being absolutely no signage for the Creative District in light of the Creative Summit ahead on May 1. Since the public art task force did it's job, we figured there would be money budgeted for 2015, but Varnum didn't tell anyone there was $25,000 considered or that it was in jeopardy or that it got cut.

      Like (4)
  5. Dara


    Sadly all your rant does is make me question my personal resolve in suggesting funding for public art in future municipal budgets. It is already a difficult enough thing for us to ask the City Council to dedicate public funds for art when there are so many other pressing needs in the community. Given the direction provided in the Comp Plan and the Creative District Strategic Plan staff has recognized and supported art as a priority in recent years which had never occurred before. That and I will now skip the dance party on Friday. Neither is worth the negativity. As always I do sincerely wish you, Curtis, Shelby and Will all the best in your endeavors.

    Like (14)
    • Jimmy Descant

      Thanks for the response Dara. I wish we would be more informed and included in the aspects of art in this art town, and that these recent afronts had been addressed before hand and not be blind sided after the fact. We the artists have worked hard through the years not only to help the town along and show what a benefit being an art town is, but trying to continue to live here and be equal partners in the endeavors. We feel that we're second class and art is always the first thing cut, which deprives the society of intellectual and soulful expansion to balance out concrete and other infrastructure that we know is necessary also. The biggest sticking point in our relationship was me being sick in the gut at the idea that $10,000 to an Oregon company. It's not all about the money for us artists as I said before, we do it because we have to, but when we get told over and over... 'it's about the money', then well, we would like some... and enough to live on for a little while. So now that you tell us there's nothing for 2015... well, we'll look forward to 2016 possibly and travel out of town 2015 and pitch and deal and create all through 2015, and forever. We're not asking for hand outs, we have something to give that means something.

      Like (4)
  6. Joe

    This is supposed to be an art town? Under proclaimation from which diety? If you want to pay for art to decorate the town, by all means have at it. I don't think the rest of us should be looted to pay for your art, and I suspect most people would find fixing potholes a higher priority.

    Like (7)
  7. Jimmy Descant

    Dara, the word 'priority' in your last message is one of the points.
    Maybe you could answer some questions pertaining to my letter to fortify the Creatives' resolve as to 'education over frustration'. It would certainly go a long way to further the public forum. I'll understand if you don't answer, but that too will be telling.
    Item 1. Why did I have to find out at the podium that the 3rd sculpture's dedicated money was going to sunset Jan. 1? And as Michael Varnum claimed ignorance of this fact, why did he not know this? And why didn't he do his own educating of the process and procedures as to protect that opportunity, as I clearly made it a point several times since May 1?
    Item 2. When there is a giant sum (for artists) of $25,000 for public art, why were we not made aware of it in the budget or the possibilities of being cut, in order to petition and encourage in a positive community building collaboration? This would have made us SO happy to even have a chance, and we know not everyone gets their wishes granted, but being educated about it would have great.
    Item 3. Who actually made the choice of these particular 4 big red hearts and signed off on sending $10,160 out of our town, and was there any at all discussion as to commissioning them first? Any of us sculptors listed could have done this job given the chance... painters, electricians, and constructions folks as well. You could have held up a picture and said 'we want exactly this' if you didn't want an artistic expression, and we would have jumped at the chance and felt really good and included.
    Like I said, in the vein of my 'Over' series, "Education Over Frustration".
    I'm sorry you got your feelings hurt, but I hope now you, staff, and Council get my point about the concept of 'shop local'. Don't worry about seeing me at the dance, go have fun... I'll be busy mourning a dead colleague, and celebrating one that didn't die.

    Like (5)
  8. Robin

    I love the big red hearts. My family loves the big red hearts. I hope they can be year round hearts! Just speaking from experience...last public art project that I was involved with....TWO artists submitted proposals. Even if you put something out to bid locally, it does not mean that you will get a response, or exactly what you want. Just saying.
    Jimmy, you said something like, "we the artists"????? Are you technically the representative for all Salida artists? I don't know many details about art boards, etc... But that statement leads me to believe that you represent and entity of artists? What entity? Thanks for informing.

    Like (2)
    • Jimmy Descant

      Hey Robin, The hearts are okay, for artists it's what it does and could have represented - work and inclusion. I'd have hearts all over and I still do make Robot hearts all the time. When you speak of '2 artists' for the last call, was that for a bike rack? Because I didn't go to the mandatory meetup or apply for that call because $1000 (or $2000 for double the work and size) was not worth the effort/expense to try and create something when we're working on projects to make a living. Just like I said above, I know that we don't always get what we want, and can live with that without hurt feelings, given due info and timely inclusion. "We the artists" in this dialogue only represents the above signed on 5 sculptors, and does not take for granted representation of all artists or genres. And when I usually refer to 'artists' or 'creatives' I am not speaking as representative, but representational and I don't mean just the visual artists but all aspects and genres of the arts in town and District... distillers, performers, clothing, etc. Thanks

      Like (4)
  9. Robin

    Thanks for your response Jimmy. Thank you for clarifying. Yes, I was talking about the 2k for the bike rack. I can't change that you don't think that is enough, but I can tell you that is was A LOT more than our volunteer staff received, who are also trying to make a living. Volunteerism is a choice, as is turning down the potential to make 2k.

    Like (2)
    • Jimmy Descant

      Hi Robin, I appreciate the back and forth. Are you on the Arts Council with Lisa, or what volunteer staff? Sorry it's hard to keep up with all the groups and agendas. I sat right there with Varnum in Council chambers way back in May or June and helped advocate for the temp. public arts task force, hoped for expedient follow thru once their work was done, and look forward to a chance to possibly lead the official Public Arts Committee with real installation artist experience, even if that means I never even get my first local commission. With the knowledge I gained about the $25k cut from the budget for 2015 looks like we're dead in the water anyway till at least 2016. The idea of not applying for some commissions is that when artists work hard to complete a vision, wearing out himself, his tools, and raw materials for just the amount of the commission and not usually make anything as profit, he is at a loss. Of time, strength, and longevity in career, so it has to balance out with the costs of everything. When the city commissions a bike rack for $1000, and it costs $1000 to make, it's same as them saying 'we'll pay $2000 for the next one, but we want twice the work'. So when the 3 sculpture/signs call was put out I asked them to change it to 2 at $5000 each instead, so that we could live past the next day after our work was done. In other words, Diesllin doesn't work for free. I would hope that that point can get across to everyone for the sake of education also. Thanks

      Like (4)
  10. Robin

    I am not associated with any arts entity in town. I don't know what Lisa you are speaking of. Volunteers that put on the race, is what I was speaking of...

    Like (0)
  11. Will Hodge

    I have asked Jimmy to retract my name from this letter. I unfortunately have to admit I didn't read the letter entirely and I would like to apologize to Dara and Michael. I work with a lot of heart and trust and don't feel this is the best platform to achieve unity between local artists and government. I definitely want to note that Jimmy is my friend, my 8 year old son cares for him like family and I appreciate that he tries to create opportunities for local artists.

    Like (9)
  12. Robin

    I just have to say... Diesllin is amazing! He does a TON for free! But his company's amazing goes beyond his gifts to the community.

    Like (3)
  13. Vern Davis

    What is the matter with our art community, don't you realize by now that "SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITY AND SHOP LOCAL" does not apply to Dara MacDonald and some members of the council.

    Like (8)
  14. Robin

    This forum is a great example of why our city council needs to be talking anout divisiveness (and how to better come together) and how to be kind, this Monday night. Our children are setting better examples.

    Like (1)
  15. Robin

    "About". And I do not intend for the above statement to imply that they are at fault, but it is a good opportunity for them to talk about community taking accountability for their actions.

    Like (1)
  16. David Larcom

    I'd still like to paint the bowling alley at no cost to the city. Even the task force said they would approve the mockup, but I can't get through the politics to make this contribution to the community.

    Like (5)
  17. Fred Hubicki

    First to JOE
    To answer: Which other professions should we subsidize? They are all subsidized one way or the other Joe, especially the oil industry.

    Second to:Creative District Strategic Plan members. Nowhere in the plan do I find anything about identifying the market or any market for our art here in Salida or Chaffee County. The plan talks about bringing people in but - who and how. Most merchants are happy with a general tourist market; anyone who walks,talks,eats and sleeps, and that's fine for them but we artists need a more defined market, like people who are interested in the arts, people who may have some discretionary income to spend on the arts and of course real art patrons of all the arts. Until we define the market or markets and figure out how to reach them, which should have been among the first steps in a marketing plan, we are just talking to ourselves.

    Like (2)
    • Larry Jones


      Could you please enlighten us how the oil industry is subsidized in Colorado?

      Oil and gas activities contributed $410,323,505 million in tax revenue to Colorado counties, cities, towns and school districts in 2012.

      Oil and gas activities supported 93,500 jobs in Colorado in 2012, with a combined payroll of $6.7 billion, according to a report by CU Leeds School of Business.

      You do understand how people can afford to buy art, right?

      Like (5)
  18. Jimmy Descant

    Thanks gor the input Fred, goid to hear from other Creatives speaking up as to forward positive direction and intention.

    Like (0)
  19. Jimmy Descant

    This from Mel Strawn on the NEW Citizen page. Hey Trey, could we get these sites and pages to merge? Bill said it would be a few days and folks like Lee Hunnicutt and others are not getting their due 'exposure'. Thanks

    "A complete and public record of everything discussed in Jimmy's post seems called for. I am appalled that this kind of controversy exists, that all voices are not out there on record. How can we know....anything? My trust is challenged.
    Mel Strawn, member of the Art Task Force; 26 year Salida community member; Professor Emeritus, University of Denver; practicing artist and educator."

    Like (1)