Artists, town OK permanent display

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BRATTLEBORO — The town will not contribute any funding to make the art installation at the Transportation Center permanent, but it will be responsible if anything should fall off the display.

"We're providing the location for the art," Town Manager Peter Elwell said during a meeting last week.

Elizabeth Billings, Evie Lovett and Andrea Wasserman are the artists who put up "River Wall," a 32-by-32-foot kinetic sculpture with 38,000 sequin disks moving in the air currents to imitate patterns of wind on water as part of the National Endowment of the Arts grant-funded "From the River, To the River," project in 2016. The artists pitched the idea to use more durable materials with the same concept in September. They are naming the new project "Ask the River."

Once completed, the town will take ownership of the artwork and it will fall under the town's insurance, according to the artist agreement.

Protections in the agreement say the artists or subcontractors will hold the town blameless if an injury occurs during the installation and town staff can decide to take the art or pieces of it down if they cannot get in touch with one of the artists about making an adjustment deemed necessary.

Public safety came up before the board voted 5-0 to authorize the town manager to sign the agreement. Elwell said the document's language was consistent with that used for murals in the community.

"But the murals in town won't fall on someone," Select Board Chairwoman Kate O'Connor said. "I think we need to all be on the same page. Once it's installed, the town's maintaining it. They're not coming and buffing it or hosing it."

Select Board member Shanta Lee Gander said lightning could strike the installation and cause materials to fall.

"I'm sorry to be the wet blanket," she said. "I just want to make sure we're thinking about it."

Board member Tim Wessel suggested posting a sign that says: "Caution: Art."

"I don't have a strong feeling," he said. "I don't think this is a problem."

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Asking artists to insure their work being displayed in a public place would be "very unreasonable" in board member David Schoales' opinion.

The artists plan to take the current installation down in 2019. But the fundraising phase may take a while, Lovett said in an email.

The goal is to seek grants and donations for the project, which is expected to cost about $50,000 to $70,000.

"If we are lucky/successful in fundraising, likely installation for the new sculpture could be fall 2019 but more likely spring 2020," wrote Lovett.

In other business:

— The board accepted the lowest bid from Banwell Architects from Lebanon, N.H., and SVE Engineering of Brattleboro to assess the town's Department of Public Works facility on Fairground Road for $20,200. Other bids included a $38,476 proposal from Centerline Architects of Bennington and DuBois & King from Springfield, and a $38,300 proposal from Stevens Engineering of Brattleboro and Austin Design of Brattleboro.

The building houses the Highway Department, Vehicle Maintenance Division, Utilities Distribution Crew and the DPW administration. The budget approved last year included $65,000 for the project.

"We generally like to look at the lower proposals," DPW Director Steve Barrett said when asked about going with the bid, which was considerably lower than the others and also recommended by Steve Horton Construction Consulting Services.

"I thought it was well thought out," he said of the proposal from Banwell and SVE. "I feel pretty confident it's the right decision."

— A second sidewalk plow for snow removal has been delivered. The purchase had been approved last year at annual Representative Town Meeting.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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