The running debate over a final resting spot for the Energy Loop sculpture, Asheville’s first public art piece, may be finally coming to an end. The city’s Public Art Board on Tuesday wholeheartedly endorsed placing the wavy chunk of steel in the center of a small plaza between a new parking deck and the new Carolina First building along College Street in downtown.
The Energy Loop was unveiled a few hundred yards away on College Street between the old City/County Plaza and Pack Square back in 1983. The sculpture 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 the piece placed in the new park, while the park’s overseers, the Pack Square Park Conservancy, have resisted.
On Tuesday, the Public Art Board announced a new location for Dirk Cruser’s abstract artwork — a green mound in the center of the plaza along College Street 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 location, and they’ve been amenable, Ruggerio said.
Board members adjourned their meeting on the fifth floor of City Hall and 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 over the years enjoyed climbing on the piece.
Board member Harry Harrison agreed. “This is good. This is right.”
Ruggerio said she planned to hold public hearings about the proposed location to get public feedback. She said city and county officials would have to craft an agreement to place the sculpture at that location if all sides agree to move forward.
In other action Tuesday, the art board:
– Decided to keep the Urban Trail’s flat iron sculpture at its location on the corner of Battery Park Avenue and Wall Street. An alleged drunken driver behind the wheel of a Pontiac car struck the sculpture on Feb. 28, knocking it about 6-feet down the sidewalk. It was later removed for repairs and has yet to be plunked back down.
Mary Ann and Steve West, owners of the Miles Building, asked the Public Art Board to consider moving the sculpture from its location in front of the their building to a spot across the street and on the sidewalk corner directly in front of the Flat Iron Building. In an April 13 letter, the Wests said that while they love the sculpture, they believed the sculpture created 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 meeting (sic) because of this confusion,” the Wests wrote.
The board said it had no plans to move the sculpture, noting that its old location was specifically chosen to be sure the sculpture could be seen in relation to the Flat Iron Building. The Reed Todd sculpture, an 8-foot-tall replica of irons used at the old Asheville Laundry, is a stop along the Urban Trail and a popular hangout for buskers, as well as tourists looking for a funky photo op.
– Heard an update on the creation of an Urban Trail audio tour. A company is working on recording interviews with a number of subjects, all with the goal of allowing anyone with an iPod or other player to download and listen. The audio tour should be finished by June, then posted on the city’s Web site.
– Announced a re-dedication ceremony for the Urban Trail mosaic honoring the old S&W Cafeteria building as an Art Deco masterpiece. The ceremony will be held at the mosaic at 4 p.m. on May 19.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor