So many ideas tied for 5th place that our top 10 includes 12. We are starring ideas that we are particularly fond of, being that they are right up our alley in subject matter, or possibly easy to incorporate into a pattern that would be cohesive with the top 12. I am so thrilled that Cindy Atchison is going to contribute her artistic prowess to the median as well. She is the other artist whose proposal made it to the top three of the public vote. Her idea was to make the median art about our river, so she is going to lead a design that includes the river and recreation surrounding it. Stayed tuned for first stage digital sketches.

Photo below is showing the tally from school and workshop contributions only. It does not include online contributions and farmers’ market drop-ins.


Design Work Incorporating Public Contributions Begins

We are so excited to begin the artistic portion of this project! Bryce and I have spent the last several months holding workshops and classroom outreach to poll the community on the things they like most about our beautiful corner of the world. The results are IN and we are assessing all the commonalities as well as the quirky fringe ideas that make art so much fun. Let me tell you: Durango loves our coffee, our dogs, the trees and the wildlife. Mountains were our number one, but then we have a ton of great ideas that represent what exactly about the mountains we love so much: camping, fishing, hiking, biking, skiing, and rafting. Of course many of the obvious items will be included, and we’re going to sneak in some surprises for you all to seek out while you’re sitting at the read light. We are not discouraged about scaling back due to the grant, it is no less a tremendous honor, and as before, we’re going to give this our best. Our deep gratitude to everyone who contributed in big and small ways.

"Mine is about Family"


Today at Florida Mesa, I approached a 4th grader who had thought out her project and written a few sentences about what she loved about Durango. This was the creative process we chose for this school: we discussed the public art project, then the kids wrote down what they love about Durango and why, then they were to cut out symbols of Durango in silhouette. But this young lady was not creating the art project. She was fidgeting and clearly flustered.
”What’s going on?” I asked. “Why aren’t you drawing your symbol out?”
She shrugged.
”May I read what you wrote? Maybe we can figure out where to start from there,” I offered.
She shrugged again.
”I like McDonalds and then going to the Rec,” she had written.
”This is great!” I said. “Are you having trouble deciding what your symbol should be?”
”I think I have to start over,” she said shyly.
”Why? I think this is a great idea.”
”It’s not important to everybody. It’s not important like trees or nature, or like firefighters or the train.”
”I have a hunch,” I said, “that it’s not just about McDonalds and the Rec. I bet you chose those things because it’s about time spent with your family; eating together and then playing together. Right? So McDonalds and the Rec is about family and fun.” She nodded emphatically.
”That is exactly what I am looking for. I don’t want you to guess what is important to the whole community. I want to know what is important to you.” She brightened up and gave me a great silhouette of a Big Mac. And I heard her explaining to her table, “Mine is about FAMILY.”

This went down perfectly in my opinion. Ideally I will be able to include all of the things that are important to the community, but the thing that will make this piece of art personal and quirky, special and interesting, will be stories like this one. I love that this little girl grasped a bigger story, too, and learned what symbolism is, and found her own symbol for something that ultimately IS important to the whole community: Family.
~Allison Leigh Smith

Ever Evolving from Contributions

There are so many updates I am unsure where to begin! 

This summer, Bryce and I held a number of art workshops and pop-up doodle dates at public venues where we made ourselves available to discuss symbols for the patterns in Common Threads. A few things began to evolve right away: For instance, we will not prop the panels up off the median “ground." And we will give great consideration to making the panels themselves have a shape other than rectangles. Perhaps we’ll shape the top like our mountain range.

Thus far, the most popular submissions for Durango symbols has been:

1. Mountains

2. Horses

3. Our River

4. Columbines

5. Skiing/Biking


We have a few more public appearances, but presently our focus is shifting to our local schools. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from teachers who would love to get their students involved in big and small ways. By far, my favorite part of this project so far has been meeting Durango teachers. It’s really a phenomenal group of talented and conscientious people. 

- Allison

Durango Herald: Residents propose ideas for public art installation on Hwy. 550/160

“When the metal panels are installed at the intersection in fall 2019, Smith said she hopes that many residents will have a personal connection to the art because they submitted ideas. 
The next public event will be held from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 22 at the Durango Farmers Market, 259 W. Ninth St.” ~ Mary Shinn, Durango Herald

Read More

Bringing submissions to fruition! How this community art project works:

What is Common Threads?
Common Threads is the name of the artwork due to be created and installed in the median dividers between the 160/550 HWY in Durango, Colorado. 

What will it look like?
The general concept is that Durango artists Allison Leigh Smith & Bryce Pettit will gather symbols of Durango. Individuals like yourself can draw a symbol, submit a photo to be interpreted into a symbol, or share with us an idea or story which will be transformed into a symbol. The lead artists will gather and create these symbols throughout 2018, and then arrange them all into beautiful patterns. The patterns will be laser cut from steel screens. These screens will serve as an aesthetic divider in the raised median. The patterns depend on the symbols, and the symbols depend on YOU! So jump in and share a drawing, a photo, or an idea that represents what makes Durango special to you. 

How do I narrow a broad concept like my love for Durango down to a single symbol?
Ah, now you’re thinking like an artist! Here is our suggestion: Consider telling us a good story or experience you had here. Choose one where Durango played a key part in plot of your story. Now, if you had to write that story as a book, you would need a book cover. Book covers don’t tell the whole story in one picture, do they? They allude to the story, usually with one item. That item is symbolic of the whole. What would go on the cover of your short story about Durango? 

What if my symbol has already been submitted? 
Submit yours too! Or dare to get more specific. If we have 20 people submit “MOUNTAINS” then your submission counts as a vote towards the inclusion of mountains. And who knows- maybe we’ll choose yours specifically because it fits best into the pattern. 

Who is participating?
Everyone, please. We’re having workshops, pop-ups, school outreach, parent outreach… we’re asking artists, teachers, professionals, long-term residents...people we run into on the street!  “What do you love about Durango?” Drawings are done in classrooms, rec rooms, napkins in bars, sketchbooks in coffee shops, ONLINE! We want to know you and hear your idea. 

Now! We are collecting symbols and ideas now. Patterning is up to the lead artists and will take place in the first weeks of 2019. Panels will be cut that Spring. We hope to have a show or shows around town displaying the process in person so you can see what we all created up close before installation is scheduled for the Fall of 2019.

Lead Artist: Bryce Pettit

Bryce grew up surrounded by the nature of the west. His deep love for the world around him and his desire to create art have always been closely linked. When he entered college, he studied biology and the natural sciences followed by graduate studies in ecology. Eventually his passion for art became undeniable and he focused full time on an art career the moment he left grad school. 
Pettit has 20 years of sculpting under his belt. He chosen subject is, of course, wildlife. He has been selected for several monumental public works including for the Tulsa International Airport, the Maritime Museum in Ludington Michigan, the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens in Kawai, Hawaii as well as a substantial collection of libraries, schools, and public parks.
Pettit was interviewed by Western Art & Architecture in August of 2017 where he explained, "My art philosophy is: you put good things into your life, good things into all you do, and good things will come out. So I spend a lot of time outside, reading, doing things I love, and it comes out in my art. Sometimes the piece refers to a story or an experience I’ve had while on the river or hiking. I’ll have 20 ideas and maybe only get to two of those. These are the ones I really can’t leave alone.”
When asked what he is looking forward to most about the public art piece for Durango, Pettit answered "Working with the people of Durango. I love this town and see this as an opportunity to give something back. We want to make something really special."


"I love this town and see this as an opportunity to give something back. We want to make something really special."

Lead Artist: Allison Leigh Smith

Allison Leigh Smith has been a professional artist for 15 years. The span of her career has touched on many facets in the arts including textile design, education director at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, and art gallery director on the island of Maui for 7 years.
These days however, you will find her surrounding herself with her highest passion: animals. Smith spends much of her time volunteering for wildlife rescues where she befriends the organizations and the animals they seek to rescue and return to the wild. She photographs her subjects and then paints them in painstaking detail in oil.
As a result of this work, Smith says, "I no longer differentiate between my vocation and avocation. The work I do for animals, although difficult, intimidating, and humble, is the most emotional and meaningful of my life. My paintings are an extension of the time and heart I put in with the animals." 
Southwest Art Magazine named Smith an "Artist to Watch" in their June 2018 issue. 
"In the paintings of Allison Leigh Smith, one can’t help but notice the endearing expressions of the animals that star in them. The artist has a knack for capturing the personalities of her furry and feathered subjects with technical dexterity, emotion, and humor." -Kim Agricola
Smith expects some challenges to come up while working to complete the Durango Public Art Project, titled Common Threads. "The aim of this project is to include a whole community. We want to please as many people as possible which is difficult to begin with, but it's important to me that it be surprising and thought provoking, as well. The challenge will be in delivering real artistic achievement while responding to the voices of an entire community."
Then Smith added, "I think we can do it though. In fact, I can't wait."

Mug Blk Wht Sq.jpg

"The challenge will be in delivering real artistic achievement while responding to the voices of an entire community. I think we can do it though.
In fact, I can't wait."