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Cortez public art committee recommends first City Hall art purchases

City to vote on first art budget spending
A skylight with stained glass is one of the few permanent artworks currently displayed in Cortez City Hall. If the Public Art Committee has its way, it will soon be joined by four more.

After seven months of planning and discussion, the Cortez Public Art Committee is ready to make its first art purchase recommendations for City Hall.

On Wednesday, the advisory committee voted to recommend the purchase of pieces by four local artists whose work has already been loaned to the city. The decision came after a jury selected four works of art connected by a water theme. If approved by City Council, the $5,332 purchase would become the first expenditure from the city’s new public art budget.

The Public Art Committee was formed in response to Cortez artists’ concerns about the way the city acquired decorations for the new City Hall building when it opened in March of 2017. Several artists, including Sonja Horoshko, who now heads the art committee, objected to the city’s request for loaned artwork, saying they wanted to be paid for their art. Since its first meeting in January, the new committee has invited several of those artists to sell their work to the city for permanent display.

While presenting the eight selected works, Horoshko said she views the purchase recommendation as a triumph.

“When we pay artists for their work, all artists feel better, and it affects their livelihood,” she said. “I think it’s a turning point for this community.”

Out of the five artists originally invited to submit work, Horoshko said one declined because City Hall didn’t have the right kind of lighting to display his photography. The other four submitted two pieces each, which were narrowed down to four by a blind jury.

The final selected artworks include a large sky painting titled “Winslow, Arizona” by Karen Kristin; part of photographer Barbara Grist’s “Fluidity Blue Series;” an abstract painting titled “Dissipation” by Keith Hutcheson; and Jan Heyl’s pastel “Below Sunshine and Wilson Peaks.”

Horoshko said the jury selected works depicting water, in order to reflect a topic that has been uppermost in many people’s minds due to the drought currently facing the Cortez area.

Several members of the Committee voiced their appreciation for the chosen pieces.

“To showcase the community and our relationship to water is really cool,” Kirbi Vaughn said.

She said she particularly liked the jury’s choice of Heyl’s work, because the painter has little formal art training, and she thought it would encourage more amateurs to submit public art projects.

The Committee voted unanimously to recommend the purchase of the four artworks. Library Director Eric Ikenouye, the Committee’s city staff liaison, said he would work to get the purchase on the Council agenda as soon as possible.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the Committee approved an inventory of all the public art currently on display in Cortez, and agreed to post the list on the city website soon. Representatives from two local organizations–the Montezuma Food Coalition and The Heart Path House counseling center – gave presentations on murals they plan to paint on their respective buildings, and asked for funding from the city. Committee members did not immediately commit to funding either project, but said they would consider the proposals.

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