New home proposed for Energy Loop

The running debate over a new site for Asheville’s first public-art piece, Dirck Cruser‘s Energy Loop, may finally be coming to an end. The city’s Public Art Board has wholeheartedly endorsed placing the wavy strip of black steel in the center of a new plaza created adjacent to Buncombe County’s new parking deck and the Carolina First bank building on College Street.

In the loop: Members of Asheville’s Public Art Board check out the proposed location for the Energy Loop after a recent meeting. Photo by Jason Sandford

Back in 1983, the Swannanoa sculptor’s abstract work was unveiled at a nearby site between the old City/County Plaza and Pack Square. The piece was uprooted more than two years ago to make way for construction of the new Pack Square Park. Ever since, the Public Art Board has been pushing to have it placed there, but the Pack Square Conservancy, charged with overseeing the new park, has resisted.

At the art board’s April 28 meeting, however, a new location was announced: a green mound in the center of the College Street plaza, directly across from the Buncombe County Courthouse. Diane Ruggiero, the city’s superintendent of cultural arts, said she hit upon the idea and began asking about the space, which is owned by the county. City officials approached the county about the idea, and they’ve been amenable, she said.

Adjourning their meeting on the fifth floor of City Hall, board members strolled over to the proposed location for a closer look.

“I like it. It’s a high-traffic area, and it’s safe,” said board member Bill Fishburne, noting that children have enjoyed climbing on the piece over the years.

Fellow board member Harry Harrison agreed, saying, “This is good; this is right.”

Ruggiero said she wants to hold public hearings to get feedback on the plan. If all sides agree to move forward, she noted, city and county officials will have to craft an agreement.

At the same meeting, the art board decided to keep the Urban Trail’s flatiron sculpture at its former location on the corner of Battery Park Avenue and Wall Street. An allegedly drunken driver in a Pontiac struck the sculpture Feb. 28, knocking it about six feet down the sidewalk. It was later removed for repairs and has yet to be reinstalled.

Mary Ann and Steve West, who own the adjacent Miles Building, had asked the board to consider moving the sculpture to a spot on the other side of Wall Street directly in front of the Flat Iron Building. In an April 13 letter, the Wests said that while they love the sculpture, they believe it creates confusion. “On most days, several visitors confuse the Historic Miles Building with the Flat Iron Building due to the sculpture and have missed appointments and meetings because of this confusion,” they wrote.

But the board said it has no plans to move the Reed Todd sculpture, noting that the old location was specifically chosen to ensure that the artwork could be seen in relation to the adjacent, wedge-shaped Flat Iron Building. Recalling the irons used at the old Asheville Laundry, the 8-foot-tall sculpture, which marks a station on the Urban Trail, is a popular hangout for buskers as well as tourists looking for a funky photo op.

The art board also heard an update on the Urban Trail audio tour. A company is recording interviews with a number of subjects, with the goal of allowing anyone with an iPod or other MP3 player to download it for a self-guided exploration of Asheville’s history. Due to be completed by June, the audio tour will be posted on the city’s Web site.

In other Urban Trail news, a re-dedication ceremony for the mosaic honoring the old S&W Cafeteria Building as an art deco masterpiece will be held Tuesday, May 19, at 4 p.m.

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