From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 36 - 5/4/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Don Kennell
Questions Arise Over Millennium Art Project
PFAC moves to address public concern about artist and his art
by Jennifer Binning

"This so called artist has done graffiti and it's obscene," says Bob Shaffer of Pinedale when asked what his concern is about the Town's Millennium Artist Don Kennell.

Mr. Shaffer is referring to a car adorned with a colorful paint job and more than a few plastic figures, including Godzilla stomping his way through a city, that Mr. Kennell has been seen driving around town, and can be seen parked in front of his house on South Fremont.

Mr. Shaffer is not alone in his concern over exactly what is being planned by Mr. Kennell to be put in one of Pinedale's parks. Several people have called Pinedale Mayor Rose Skinner and members of the Pinedale Fine Arts Council Board of Directors in order to voice their dismay.

PFAC President Jo Crandall said in an interview this week that the controversy was expected and even welcomed. "This attention is good for the project, because it serves to generate interest and debate. What we want here is a piece of public art for the community that the community wants."

Mrs. Crandall feels part of the problem is people are used to having a committee or artist create a sculpture with no public input whatsoever. This is not going to happen in this case, she emphasizes.

The Kennell family car.
PFAC has scheduled two work sessions in which the public is encouraged to come and lend their voice to the project.

"The more ideas, the better," says Don Kennell of the work sessions. From what he has seen during his time in Pinedale, there are a lot of good ideas out there and it makes his job just that much easier to have a considerable amount of community involvement.

"Public art really has a checkered past," said Mr. Kennell on Tuesday night. This comes from the artist or the committee that commissioned the piece being out of touch with the community. "A lot of contemporary art is not easily understood, it has a language all it's own, but that language is easy to share. I really enjoy working with people of a community and including and educating them in the process. I feel I bring that to Pinedale."

Mrs. Crandall notes that several people have asked why PFAC did not get an artist from Wyoming for the project. When PFAC was given the Millennium Project Artist in Residence award, it also received a "short list" of 250 artists that had been narrowed down from an initial group of 600. In fact, Mr. Kennell was born in Casper and attended college there. His family has a long history of ranching in the west, and he is familiar with the lifestyle. "He comes to us with no preconceived ideas about what he wants to do here. That is why we are having the work sessions," says Mrs. Crandall.

Mr. Shaffer asks why we can't have a large bronze like the horses in Lander, or perhaps a nice boulder with a plaque on it commemorating those who have served in the armed services. Mrs. Crandall replies that the community simply cannot afford a massive bronze like those in Lander, and they want to reflect the past, present and future of the community of Pinedale "on the cusp of the 21st century."

"Don is a contemporary artist," she says "but his work is realistic. You can tell what it is, even though it is not cast in bronze."

What about the car? Is this a fair representation of the artists' work? According to Mr. Kennell, the car was created during his honeymoon trip five years ago. The Kennell's were working on a project that included driving cross-country and creating a map of the drive. If you look carefully, you will notice the car is "a map on wheels," says Mr. Kennell, grinning. Now it serves as an icebreaker in the communities where he works, noting people from all walks of life will approach him to ask about the car. "People either love it or hate it. It really is just kind of fun, and in no way represents what we are going to do in Pinedale."

Mr. Kennel is looking forward to the work sessions with the public, and asks that people begin thinking about the imagery that they feel reflects the area, the materials that should be used, what they would like to see in the sculpture, and in what context they would like to see it. The history or the future of the area for instance. "After having done so much research into the history of the area, and finding it so interesting, I am tempted to do something historical, but I am interested in the future of Pinedale too."

"I love doing these projects and feel very lucky to be able to do this," says Mr. Kennell, " but above all this sculpture should be fun for the people who live here, and impressive to all who visit."

The public work sessions to develop ideas for the Community Millennium Sculpture will be held Wednesday May 10 at 1 p.m. and Thursday, May 11 at 7 p.m. in the Pinedale Library.

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