Scroll through for an inside scoop on the images and their meanings.

 

This is what it’s all about:
A submission for the grains that make beer, a heart with wings given to us at the farmers’ market, a hot air balloon and a columbine designed during a public workshop, four birds from fourth graders at Park and Needham Elementary, an owl that is a combination of a fourth grader and an eighth graders’ artwork. The leaf is an exact copy of a local child’s submission. The apple was submitted by another fourth grader whose family picks apples off their tree to give to the homeless. I estimate that around 16 works of art were used directly in this pattern. I think this panel more than any other is what I was aiming for when I proposed this project.

Lead artist, Allison Leigh Smith shows how community submissions were used directly in the design of the patterns that will be cut from steel screens for Hwy median intersection 550/160.

Lead artist, Allison Leigh Smith shows how community submissions were used directly in the design of the patterns that will be cut from steel screens for Hwy median intersection 550/160.

 
But First, Coffee.

But First, Coffee.

Oh but we do love our coffee here in Durango.
Honestly though, when coffee came up again and again we understood the trend in thinking: coffee is not just about coffee. It’s about time with friends. It’s a ritual to start the day. It represents a place where everybody knows your name. Coffee was in the top 5 of symbols contributed. So as artists, we thought latte art was the most esthetic way to represent this community choice. We picked this reference up at Taste coffee, during Snowdown 2019, when local baristas competed to win a latte art competition. Starbucks, Durango Joes, Compact Coffee, and Taste Coffee all competed. This specific art was swiped from local Mike Clarke’s hard core barista skillz.

 
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Here in Durango we love our bears. It’s as simple as that. Bears easily cruised into our top five of most popular submissions. By making the bear big, we will be able to use the positive shape again in the median. You’ll see that we combined the bear with contributions about fishing. Then we ended this four panel combination with one student’s idea of aspen trees.

 

HAVE FUN
Durango is a community rich with creative minds and artists. Tim Kapustka, one if the original owners of Studio & Gallery on Main Street, graciously lent us his original HAVE FUN design. You can see this same design adorning artwork and tee shirts around town.
We felt it serves as a good reminder for locals and tourists alike, and we are delighted to include it. Thank you Tim!
Seriously, folks. HAVE FUN.
See Tim’s work HERE and at Studio & Gallery
1027 Main Avenue Durango, Colorado

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“So… What’s with the monkey?”
Allow us to explain. The formal name is Durangoan. But locals know and will often correct you: We prefer to be called Durangotans. Commonly pronounced: Durang-a-tang.
If you live here, you know. If you don’t, just go with it.
In the space around our beloved local hanging out, is a nod to our farming community. We love our farms and our farmers.
Honey combs, carrots, peppers, eggs, pumpkins, and squash blossoms- this panel is about growth and our love of the land.

 
Close to nature.

Close to nature.

The triangle tiered pine tree was the most pleasing tree of trees we received (yo, say that five times fast).
Not only do we love trees, but we live here to be among them. You can see how the bottom row represents our town, and up the mountain is our escape. Many teachers had their students explain why they chose the symbol they did, and without exception, the trees were chosen to symbolize living close to nature. We had two submissions from locals who love their church, so in town, we built a building to represent a place of worship. I imagine that tent is a place of worship as well.

 
Rocky Mountain High

Rocky Mountain High

Well of course we included the train! The train alone could symbolize the city of Durango. From an artistic standpoint it offered ways to combine a variety of other less obvious symbols, too. We had four submissions of sheep, a handprint that one father chose to symbolize family, and one of our high school interns, Georgia, entered The Arc of History. Artists should respect other artists, so we loved this idea and included it. One precocious 4th gradre made a fork and knife, declaring, “Durango offers a wonderful dining experience.” We agreed there, too. One DHS student said we seem to like art and nature here so she gave us a paint brush and a leaf. We included them both. We wanted to add music because we had several submissions informing us that the music community is alive and thriving here. Our little secret is that these notes are the chorus to Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. Artwork and ideas in these paired panels easily include over 30 residents’ contributions.

 
Cindy Atchison’s beautiful river-themed contribution

Cindy Atchison’s beautiful river-themed contribution

We’re thrilled and honored to have local designer Cindy Atchison lend us her amazing graphic abilities to depict our love of adventure surrounding our precious Animas River. You can see more of Cindy’s work all around town as she is responsible for much of the well-known signage and design work for local businesses. Check out her site HERE.

 
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It’s no surprise that bikes hit the top ten in popular votes. Seeing as how we have a couple pieces of public art that celebrate our passion for mountain biking already, we decided to mix it up. In this panel, we tip our hat to our past combining the bicycle wheel with a mining cart and wagon wheel. We had a few submissions about mining, and we have a Durango High School student to thank for the great idea of the wagon. I think this is a great mix of where we came from and who we are.

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Engineer Mountain will appear twice in the median, we hope, depending on (coincidentally) our engineer: We want to cut the silhouette off of a pair of panels, and then weld the cut pieces onto this panel of tracks. Hiking, biking, tracking, and off-roading: another panel expressing our love of being near nature and a part of it.

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A few of our patterns are deliberately minimal. They were selected to function beautifully as backdrops to the extra pieces of metal we produce from cutting. The bear, for instance, that was cut from previous panels will be welded together and coupled with one of these designs. The multitudes of pets and animals we have will use these panels as support, bases, and backdrops.
The top references our state flower and wildflowers in general. The second is a classic art deco design that changes visual weight from one end to the other and symbolizes our connections, friendships, and living so close to many dynamic neighboring towns and destinations. The third represents mountains. More than any other art work, we received mountains as the symbol for Durango. We cut out a couple distinctive ranges into the panels but this zig zag pattern echos over 22 images of triangles symbolizing our peaks and valleys.

 
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This panel will not be a panel but a series of cut-outs welded to the tops and sides of other panels. Visually, it will break up some of the squareness along with other main features like the bear and horses and mountaintops reused from other cuts.
Clearly home is where our pets are. I chose a variety of pups since that was the most common idea, and fit a cat in here too, destined to be perched above all else, just like they like it.
Be sure and look for Moose, Mark McWhirter’s handsome Frenchie pupper among the pack of beloved submissions.

Miki Harder and her ravens

Miki Harder and her ravens

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Included in our panel of free standing fun characters is Miki Harder’s ravens.
Are you kidding me with these birds, I LOVE them! I couldn’t believe our luck when she agreed to allow us to use her designs. If you don’t know her, you should. Check out her work HERE You can often find her and her ravens at Studio & Gallery on Main Street.

 
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We created this light airy panel design along with a couple others with large cut-outs so the overall aesthetic would not be square, but also have some organic elements. Symbolically, Aspens have always represented being connected by the roots, changing, and letting go. A worthy subject, I feel.

 
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More secrets behind the panels and their meanings to come! Please come back soon for more updates.
~Allison & Bryce