Group working to create a public art program

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— The cougar that has sat in captivity in Loveland finally can come home thanks to a public art fund created by the city of Steamboat Springs.

The $26,833 piece was partially purchased with $12,250 from the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Contribution Fund. The artist, a Loveland bronze sculptor who goes by the name Rosetta, donated her $8,500 commission fee, leaving the Steamboat Springs Arts Council with a balance of $6,083.

"The economy took a downturn, and we had a hard time finding the additional funding," Arts Council executive director Nancy Kramer said. For years, the bronze cougar sat on a pedestal in West Lincoln Park, and for years, Rosetta waited for payment. The sulfur springs near the cougar slowly ate away at the patina, and the sculpture was sent to Loveland to be stripped and repatinaed by Patrick Kipper.

Kipper called Rosetta to his studio to show her the condition of the sculpture, which also was badly pitted from the sulfur damage.

"We called my metal finisher to come over and repair it," Rosetta said. Then she called Kramer. "I told her if I didn't get paid for the sculpture, I was going to refund the deposit, minus a fee and put it back on the market. She assured me that money had been approved."

On Thursday, a group that has formed to build a public art program here agreed to pay Rosetta $6,083 from the city's newly established public art fund.

The bronze cougar will be returned to Steamboat and placed in the Gondola Transit Center, far from any sulfur springs.

The money used to rescue the cougar is part of a $15,000 annual appropriation from the city's general fund that has been set aside for public art projects on the condition that the money is matched each year by a minimum of $10,000 in private funds.

"Having this money set aside proactively will prevent this kind of thing from happening again," Kramer said. "This has really weighed heavy on me. This is not the way we wanted to do this."

After paying the balance on the bronze cougar and paying for the exhibit of Diego Rivera sketches, $7,000 in public art money remains in the 2005 budget.

Thursday's meeting was the second public meeting aimed at eventually forming an official public art committee that would make recommendations to the City Council about the use of money set aside for art. The committee also would act as advisers to developers interested in adding art to their projects and would pair educational opportunities with each public art project.

The group has formed a steering committee with a goal of presenting the parameters for a long-term public art program to the City Council by the end of 2005.

The next meeting of the group, which is open to the public, is tentatively scheduled for noon Oct. 27 at Centennial Hall.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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