Alamosa honors art winner, makes purchase


ALAMOSA — Alamosa city council on Wednesday night recognized the winners of the City of Alamosa’s first ArtScape People’s Choice Award and decided to purchase one of the ArtScape pieces.

Kasia Polkowska and Kyle Cunniff, new residents of Alamosa, won the People’s Choice Award with their piece, “Johona-Mai,” located at the corner of Main and State in downtown Alamosa. The piece is one of 17 featured in the inaugural ArtScape public arts program in Alamosa.

The city received 75 votes for the People’s Choice Award, with 43 of those going to “Johona-Mai,” Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks told the city council.

She commended the artists for becoming so involved in the community as newcomers here. They have volunteered on the city’s art committee, for example.

“We are so excited and honored to have been chosen for the first annual ArtScape People’s Choice Award,” Cunniff said. “We want to thank everybody that took the time to vote.”

He also thanked those who helped set up the program, especially Brooks and Executive Assistance Jolene Webb.

“I am really excited to see this program go,” Cunniff said.

Polkowska said that the piece itself, reminiscent of the nesting dolls of her Eastern European homeland, depicts in its colors the sunshine and blue skies of Alamosa, even in the winter, “which we love.”
She thanked those who voted for their artwork.

“It’s an honor,” she said.

City councilors thanked the couple for becoming so involved and sharing their talents in the community.
Brooks told the council the city’s art fund has $5,400 remaining in it, which the city council could use to purchase one or more of the ArtScape pieces. If the city council purchased one of the pieces each year, it could build up the city’s downtown artscape, she explained.

The People’s Choice selection is priced at $21,600, which is more than the city has in its art budget. The art committee recommended purchasing Valley artist Huberto Maestas’ “El Pastor,” which is priced at $7,500. However, the agreement with the artists was that if any of their pieces sold while they were on display in Alamosa this year, the city would receive 20 percent commission to go back into the art fund. That would bring the price of “El Pastor” down to $6,000, Brooks said.

She said the $600 above the art fund budget could come out of savings in the nondepartmental budget or from the general fund balance.

Brooks said it was council’s prerogative if it wanted to follow the recommendation to purchase El Pastor or other artwork in the ArtScape display. The council could also decide if it wanted to keep the piece where it is currently displayed or relocate it.

The council unanimously decided to purchase “El Pastor” for $6,000. Councilor Charles Griego said that would be a fitting piece to purchase for the city, especially since the artist was the person who came to him and encouraged the city to develop the ArtScape art in public places program. Maestas has been a volunteer on the art committee and has been a crucial part of the process, Brooks added.

Griego also gave credit to Brooks for running with the idea when he presented it. He said it takes a lot of work to get something like this going, but it is something that draws people to the community.

“I planted the seed. She watered it and it bloomed,” Griego said.

Councilman Jan Vigil said he liked the cultural value of “El Pastor,” which depicts a sheepherder, a part of this area’s culture and history.

Councilman Michael Stefano agreed. “El Pastor goes with our culture here,” he said.

Councilor Ty Coleman added he also liked that piece because of the cultural significance and because the artist is local to the Valley.

Mayor Josef Lucero said purchasing pieces like this will enhance Alamosa’s contribution to the arts, which will continue to grow every year.

Councilor Kristina Daniel said she loved the piece as well. She added that she also liked the “Longhorn” piece that Maestas’ grandson Amyas created. Brooks said Amyas Maestas has become very involved locally and is helping set up an art program at the Boys & Girls Club.

The current pieces in the inaugural Alamosa ArtScape will be up through next September when new pieces will be selected.

Caption: Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero presents the award and prize for the City of Alamosa ArtScape’s People’s Choice Award to artists Kasia Polkowska and Kyle Cunniff, holding their newborn Ethan, center. Flanking them from left are Councilors Charles Griego, Michael Stefano, Liz Thomas Hensley, Jan Vigil and Kristina Daniel, City Executive Assistant Jolene Webb, City Manager Heather Brooks and Councilman Ty Coleman.