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Cortez council appoints members of public arts advisory board

Six local artists and one student to fill new positions
Several rooms in City Hall, including the Municipal Court, are decorated with work from local artists.

The Cortez City Council voted Tuesday to appoint the seven people who will sit on the new public art advisory committee.

Sonja Horoshko, Heidi Brugger, Brandon Shubert, Aaron LeMay, Kirbi Vaughn, Dan Simplicio and student representative Corinne Damore-Rome will volunteer on the new committee, which will be led by Cortez Public Library director Eric Ikenouye. Their job will be to act as liaisons between the city and local artists whose work will be displayed on city property, and to advise the council on how to commission and maintain public art. Horoshko and Brugger will serve for a three-year term, LeMay and Shubert for a two-year term, and Vaughn and Simplicio for a one-year term.

The new board has been almost a year in the making. It was first conceived as a possible solution by a group of local artists who confronted the city council in March with complaints about the way the art that decorates the new City Hall had been handled. After several months of planning, the council voted to approve the creation of a public arts advisory board in October, and Tuesday’s vote cleared the way for the board to begin operating in 2018.

A total of eight people applied for positions on the seven-member committee. In a workshop before the meeting, council members heard presentations from all of them and voted for six of the adult applicants. Damore-Rome, 16, was the only candidate for the board’s youth position.

The board members come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from visual to performance to culinary arts. LeMay is a musician and founder of Inner Orbit Sound System, which organizes many of Montezuma County’s concerts and music festivals. Vaughn’s background is in art education. Simplicio is a cultural specialist at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Shubert owns Stonefish Sushi and More. Brugger, a puppeteer and slam poet, and Horoshko, a multi-disciplinary artist who writes for the Four Corners Free Press, have been among the most vocal proponents of the new committee since March.

“Every single project, from my point of view, every meeting that we do as a committee ... should be just a little bit better than the last one,” Horoshko said. “And gradually we’ll build a really strong community, but we can’t expect to be fully evolved the minute we get together. We are going to have a strong learning curve together.”

All the candidates spoke about what they would like to accomplish through the new committee. One recurring theme was the need for better arts education in Cortez. Damore-Rome said she wanted to serve on the committee because of how important art classes have been in her life.

“I’ve been asked a lot this year what I want to do with my future,” she said. “The only thing I know that I’m interested in is art, but I think in society you’re raised to see art as a hobby, and not a career.”

She said she hoped the advisory committee would be able to help empower local students to pursue art as a career “without being so afraid.”

Another common theme among the candidates was the need for government to work with artists on their terms when it comes to public art projects.

“Artists look at things differently,” Shubert said. “If you’re not an artist, you need an artist with you, because they see things you don’t see.”

After council members voted in the workshop and had their votes tallied by city clerk Linda Smith, they voted unanimously to approve the appointments in the regular meeting. The only candidate who was not appointed to the board was Llois Stein.

All future appointments to the committee will be made by the City Council, using the same process as other Cortez advisory boards. The committee’s first meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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