PAX—The future of public art in Montrose

What does the City of Montrose plan to do regarding public art downtown? That was the subject of a recent Wednesday morning Forum at Heidi’s Delicatessen.

Answers were provided by deputy city clerk Carolyn Bellavance. She said that the Public Art Experience and its partners are trying to raise money to save two well-known sculptures by Vic Payne in the downtown area. “Bad Decision”, located in Demoret Park, and “Where Eagles Dare”, at the intersection of Main and Uncompahgre, have been on loan to the city since 2012. The loan agreement with private collector William F. Widger expires in the spring.

Bellavance said that Downtown Development Authority director Lance Michaels is heading up the fundraising effort to buy the pieces.

“The Public Art Experience, also known as PAX, is a partnership with the Montrose Downtown Development Association, the City of Montrose, PAX volunteers, and the public,” she said. “It’s also a component of the Montrose Community Foundation. And PAX relies heavily on the generosity of the many patrons and donors we’ve had throughout the years; they actually keep our program going.”

In a way, the Public Art Experience owes its existence to Grand Junction’s Art on the Corner program. PAX was formed after a 2005 discussion between the City, the Chamber of Commerce, downtown business people, and local artists about emulating Junction’s idea. “It was virtually set up as a subcommittee of the Chamber’s Cultural Development Committee,” Bellavance explained. “In 2013, it was brought under the wing of the Montrose Downtown Development Authority because most of our sculptures are in the downtown corridor.”

Some folks believe that the City of Montrose has purchased all of those sculptures. “Not true,” according to Bellavance. “The city kindly provides crews to set the sculptures, and the insurance that is needed for the exhibits. There is also a very small line item in the city budget to help with the cost of the sculptures being placed, and advertising costs.” Some of that is offset by fees paid by the artists, and donations.

PAX put up its first exhibit in 2006. It featured 6 sculptures, valued at a total of about $16,000. PAX has come a long way since then. Bellavance said, “The 2015-2016 exhibit featured 21 sculptures, and the total value of that exhibit was $93,200.”

If you’re wondering how Montrose gets those sculptures, “The process is a ‘call for entry’ from a database of artists from around the state that we have put together; we look for displays in other communities, and put those artists in our database so we can contact them,” Bellavance explained.

The artists submit photos of their works with their “call for entry” cards and a $20 fee. Bellavance said, “We encourage new artists to participate. In the last couple of years we’ve actually been able to offer an artists’ stipend of $200, which is common in many of the public art programs around the state.” The sculptors also receive recognition, advertising, and the exposure of their work to new people. “Possibly, they might sell their art,” Bellavance said. When that happens, PAX receives a 25 percent commission, and five percent of that goes to the City of Montrose.”

World renowned animal sculptor Pokey Park, of Tucson, Arizona, will be the featured artist in the 2016-2017 exhibit. Her bronze piece, “Totem”, will be set on the northeastern corner of E. Main and N. Uncompahgre. “It’s a very cool piece with a lot of detail, so I encourage you to check that one out,” Bellavance exclaimed.

Public input is an important part of PAX’s selection process, according to Bellavance. “Sometimes, we even accept pieces that might be a little controversial. We weigh comments from all groups of people, so we’re not the ‘art police’.” Those comments are used in deciding whether to leave the sculpture where it is, move it, or remove it completely.

PAX is going to give Montrose an artistic gift. “We have purchased seven distinctive sculptures to give to the city for its permanent collection,” Bellavance revealed. “In addition, there are eight pieces that have been purchased, and donated, by artists, individuals, and businesses. As of 2015, $60,450 worth of sculptures had been purchased to enhance the city’s permanent collection.”

For more information about PAX and its projects, please go to or

About the author

Dave Segal

Dave Segal

Dave Segal, a Detroit native, has been a journalist since 1977. He has worked as a reporter, commentator, and news director at radio stations in Detroit, Denver, and Montrose.

Dave has been writing and editing for the Monitor since its first print issue in 2003. He is editor and senior writer for the digital magazine. On the side, Dave has also done freelance writing, media relations, and a variety of volunteer work.