Editorial: Preserve and treasure
There’s no way around it: The recent destruction of two pieces of locally produced art — though inadvertent — was a huge loss to our community.
The pieces in question — two Native American metal sculptures, created by the late local artist Bernie Rose — had been on display at the KOA Campground in Craig until the facility’s new owner, Chad Hodnefield, and his wife, disposed of them as part of several updates the property’s décor.
We have since learned that the sculptures were sent to the Moffat County Landfill, where they were likely destroyed.
The situation was exacerbated when Kathleen “Kathy” Shea — Rose’s widow — noticed the sculptures were missing and asked the Hodnefields about them. In a misguided attempt to protect Shea’s feelings, they initially told the woman the sculptures had been taken by couple who had expressed interest in them.
This was a lie, and we in no way condone its telling, regardless of the reasons. Honesty is always the best policy, and the Hodnefields should have told Shea what really happened to the sculptures when she initially asked about them.
To his credit, however, when the couple realized the significance of the statues to the Craig community, Chad Hodnefield came clean and apologized.
“We didn’t realize there was value there,” Hodnefield told the Craig Press on Tuesday. “We wanted to change the décor of the campground a little bit. We had three dumpsters of stuff that we got rid of, such things as empty boxes. We just never thought of the value.”
“We are sorry and apologize …,” he added. “If we’d had foreknowledge, we’d have handled it differently.”
And, after speaking with Hodnefield, we believe his apology to be both sincere and heartfelt. Setting up shop in a new community is never easy, and this task is made even more difficult when it begins with a serious misstep. For these reasons, we accept Hodnefield’s apology and hope the community will do the same.
But, there’s still no way around it: This chain of events is unfortunate across-the-board, and there are no winners: Both Shea and the community-at-large are heartbroken by the loss, and the Hodnefields now find themselves living beneath a cloud as they attempt to assimilate themselves into a new town.
But perhaps, there is a potential bright spot to be found.
According to Hodnefield, there was nothing in the purchase agreement or disclosure documents to suggest he did not own the artwork, nor was there any documentation assessing its value.
Given this, we can’t help thinking that, had such documentation existed for the statues, the outcome would have been very different, and we can’t help wondering how many other undocumented and unaccounted-for pieces of art exist in our community.
There’s nothing we can do to change the fate of the Bernie Rose sculptures, but if anything good can come out of this, perhaps it can serve as a catalyst to protect other beloved pieces of Moffat County art.
In other words, we can learn from it. In an environment as beautiful as the Yampa Valley, it’s easy to take our public art for granted. But, if we truly value the things we have — and, judging from responses to news of the sculptures’ destruction, we do — we must become more aware of where they are and who is to be responsible for them, and we must become proactive about protecting and preserving them.
In mid-March, we learned that a group of local artists, musicians and art enthusiasts is organizing a new art council in Craig. Once this group has been established, perhaps it could begin its work by identifying and documenting all public art in the county and establishing a database to catalog these items.
It might also be helpful to add plaques to these works of art that chronicle their origins, identify and acknowledge their creators and explain their cultural significance. Not only would this lessen the chance for their inadvertent removal, it would also serve as an aid to both visitors and residents and might form the first steps of establishing a local art walk.
In short, it’s time we took stock.
If we truly value our public art, we should do all in our power to preserve and treasure it.
In today’s digital age, it isn’t comforting to know Craig hasn’t yet fully joined the rest of the industrialized world’s instant interconnectedness brought about by fast and reliable internet.