Three Denver-based art curators stand Wednesday at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s new Craig campus. The three were invited to Craig to select artwork submitted to the college by Northwest Colorado artists. The college seeks to adorn its halls with original art. Pictured from left are Jil Rosentrater, Amy Laugesen and Michael Chavez.

Photo by Ben McCanna

Three Denver-based art curators stand Wednesday at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s new Craig campus. The three were invited to Craig to select artwork submitted to the college by Northwest Colorado artists. The college seeks to adorn its halls with original art. Pictured from left are Jil Rosentrater, Amy Laugesen and Michael Chavez.

Colorado curators critique Craig creations

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Colorado Northwestern Community College Vice President of Administration Gene Bilodeau, left, leads a tour Wednesday of the new college campus to Michael Chavez, Jil Rosentrater and Amy Laugesen – three Denver-based art curators. The three were invited to Craig to select artwork submitted to the college by Northwest Colorado artists. The college seeks to adorn its halls with original art.

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Colorado Northwestern Community College Vice President of Administration Gene Bilodeau, second from left, leads a tour Wednesday of the new college campus to three Denver-based art curators. The three were invited to Craig to select artwork submitted to the college by Northwest Colorado artists. Pictured from left are Jil Rosentrater, Bilodeau, Michael Chavez and Amy Laugesen.

Not all news is bad in this economy.

Gene Bilodeau, vice president of administration for Colorado Northwestern Community College, said the economic downturn meant the bid for constructing the new campus in Craig was lower than expected.

And, some of those leftover funds can now go toward purchasing art for the school’s gleaming new hallways and spaces, which will open in early August.

“We want to be a part of exposing the community and the students to life that is more than just reading and writing,” Bilodeau said. “Art allows us to understand differences – to understand cultures,” he said.

Since mid-June, the college has been soliciting art submissions for possible purchase. Artists from Moffat County, Rio Blanco County, Hayden and Oak Creek were eligible to present their art for consideration.

The deadline for entries was July 13.

Now that submissions have been received from 23 local artists, Bilodeau said it’s time to review the entries and make selections.

And, that process is better handled by outside eyes, he said.

“Because everybody knows everybody (in the area), we said, ‘Let’s set up a process that keeps it (the selections) very objective. And, to that end, let’s see if we can get some outside folks here as jurists.’”

On Tuesday evening, three Denver-area art curators arrived in Craig to serve as art jurists.

Denver resident Michael Chavez is curator at the Foothills Art Center in Golden. Englewood resident Amy Laugesen is a former curator of contemporary exhibits for Denver International Airport and a mixed-media sculptor. Denver resident Jil Rosentrater is a manager for Colorado Public Art Programs.

On Tuesday, the group toured the new CNCC facilities and Craig, and sat together behind closed doors in a conference room to view 400 slides of submitted art. By today, the jury hopes to reach consensus.

Laugesen said the tour of the Craig would help the jurists get a sense of the community, so that their choices reflect and celebrate the surroundings.

“We want to give a sense of place to where we are, and not try to be anywhere else but right here. This was a specific call for this area’s artists, we want to honor the artists and the community that is here.”

Chavez said reaching consensus is key to the success of the eventual collection.

“A committee is important for picking public art because if you have only one person’s opinion, that’s going to be a really one-sided view,” he said. “When you get three very different people, you’re going to get a compromise rather than a single point of view that might only appeal to a certain audience.”

All three jurors have been in similar circumstances before, but they haven’t worked together until now. Rosentrater said working as a team is crucial to the process.

“It’s about working together and negotiating with each other, because you have to come to a consensus.”

Chavez said initial selections would likely be easy, but the process would become more difficult as time goes on.

“The last 10 percent is all arm wrestling,” Chavez joked. “That’s how it’s decided.”

Once the selections are made, the finalists will be disclosed to the CNCC art committee, which is comprised of Bilodeau and four local artists. Then the committee will approach the artists to purchase their works.

“Artists have an idea of what their artwork is worth,” he said. “So, when we pick those pieces out, we’ll approach them and say, ‘We’re interested in this piece of art. What’s the price?’”

Bilodeau said the local installations won’t be the end of the college’s pursuit for art.

“Depending on what we get from local artists, we’ll see what we need to do to round that out. Do we need or want more ceramics, more photos, more paintings, more tapestries? From that point, the local committee will look at artwork from outside the area.”

Bilodeau said the college might also solicit local works for a rotating exhibit.

In the meantime, the out-of-town jurists had high marks for the new facilities – particularly the use of natural light and the placement on the hill.

“I think it fits in great with the surrounding landscape,” Chavez said. “It’s very thoughtfully laid out in relation to geography and the sun.”

“It’s framing a beautiful landscape here,” Laugesen said.

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