NEWS BLOG
LovelandPolitics
Loveland's Independent News Source
Loveland - September 24, 2012 (Updated Oct. 1, 2013)

Loveland's Transitional Art Program uses city tax dollars to hire local artists to paint electric transformers located
throughout the city (
see map of locations and art).

Like Loveland's public sculptures and Museum art exhibits, paintings on utility boxes are not without controversy.   
One box in particular is a sore subject with those who are closest to it and consider it an attack on their faith.

"Beyond Tomorrow" is the theme of a utility box painted by Margie Ellis last year located at the entrance to the
Assembly of God Celebration Church parking lot near the corner of Wilson Ave. and 1st Street in Loveland.  At first,  
Senior Pastor Jim Tracy welcomed the artist who took refuge during her breaks from painting the box in his church  to
enjoy food and drink with members of the congregation.  Once complete, however, the church members  were not
happy with the results and complained immediately to the city.

Instead of painting a locally themed landscape or animals common on other boxes, Ellis painted something  most
people do not normally associate with Loveland.  Known now as the "Witch on Wilson," Ellis painted what appears to
be a witch-like heavily tattooed face holding what appears to some as a symbol of the
Wiccan  cults called a triqueta.  
Wicca is a modern practice of witchcraft that calls upon pagan blood rituals and sacrifices to empower the  self-
proclaimed witches who perform the dark rituals.

Pastor Tracy's wife, Caorlyne, told LovelandPolitics,
"It looks a little more new age and evil than we would like."   Jim
Tracy recently left for a month long trip to the Philippines so was not available for comment.  According to his wife,
Tracy made a formal complaint to the city but was told there is nothing the staff or council could do to change art work.

Luis Campos is the pastor of the Loveland Bilingual Church that meets in the same building as Celebration Church.
Both churches are affiliated with the Assemblies of God.  Their services are simultaneously in Spanish and English.  He
is also bothered by the images on the utility box and told LovelandPolitics,

"Its an ugly thing an ugly piece...it is the wrong piece for our location and I doubt that other churches or schools
would want it in front of their buildings"

Campos further complained, "we have children who are afraid of it.  We probably have about 50 kids and some who
come from backgrounds of alternatives from violence so that dark painting really frightens them."

Campos caters to a congregation of both Portuguese and Spanish speaking locals he says come from 10 different
countries in Latin America and Europe.  Campos jokes that despite their diverse cultures and backgrounds they
universally dislike the utility box painting and believe there might be more to it than just bad taste.  An employee of
Group Publishing for the past 17 years,  Campos does not see the controversy in the common narrative of a small town
narrow-minded religious group against a more worldly art community,

"We are a city of nations though people don't realize it.  I like the concept but just the wrong piece for this location
but I am not sure it was accidental."

When church officials displayed a banner to advertise a fund raising event for a new baptismal font that blocked the
view of vehicles travelling along Wilson from seeing the utility box, there was trouble.  A mysterious man appeared  
and demanded the banner be removed.  In fact, every time anything is placed in front of the painting whether a  
vehicle or sign, someone mysteriously appears to aggressively proclaim the church is  violating some city  ordinance or
easement even though the sign is on church property.  Not seeking to be at the center of another art vs. religion
controversy, church leaders have decided to avoid a confrontation with the city and try to live with the art on their
doorstep.  However, Pastor Campos says he has come to see there is an agenda behind the placement of the  art.

Like others who came before them to question the placement of a nude sculpture near a Mormon Church in east
Loveland
called "triangle" or the Chagoya "art" renderings that brought national attention to Loveland for displaying
images of Jesus Christ and Catholic clergy in pornographic positions, some city officials explained they were  powerless
to do anything as the decision rested solely in the hands of the seven members of Loveland's Visual Arts Commission.  
Similar to past complaints, the Assembly of God church found Loveland's staff and elected leaders were unwilling to
get involved in trying to influence where and what type of art is placed around the city.

Visual Arts Commission's Double Standard

Two ordinances passed in 1985 created Loveland's Art in Public Places (AIPP) program which diverts 1% of all capital
construction costs for projects over $50,000 into a special reserve account managed by the Visual Arts Commission.  
The Commission, appointed by the Loveland City Council, decides how to spend the money and what content the
taxpayer funds will be used to support for sculptures placed throughout the city, museum art exhibits and now the
assignment of utility boxes to particular artists and themes.

Considered the third rail of Loveland politics, members of the Visual Arts Commission are normally held in high
esteem and boast of their independence from "politics" when making decisions.  Historically, the commission's
decisions are final and public pressure, no matter how intense, has little to no impact on their decisions.  This has
frustrated city councils in the past looking for compromise on controversial issues.  

Contrary to what the leaders of Celebration Church were told, the Visual Arts Commission does indeed allow nearby
property owners to control the artistic content of utility boxes.

Art Castings Allowed To Cancel Art on Utility Box After Reviewing Design

Tony Workman, owner of Art Castings in Loveland (the historic foundry where bronze sculptures are cast) was given
some discretion over the content of the utility box in front of his business earlier this year.  Workman was sitting at his
desk when he noticed someone was priming the utility box in front of his building.  When he inquired with the painter,
he was shown a copy of the intended design for his box.  He made some calls to friends with the city asking that his
utility box not be painted.  He was than directed to the Visual Arts Commission.  His utility box had already been  
assigned an artist and design per the Transformation Project by the Visual Arts Commission.  Nonetheless, the
Commission agreed to delay any painting for that utility box until after he had a chance to address the commission.

According to Workman,
"Our utility box is right in front of our building next to the entrance.  I didn't want a design in
front of our business that I had no control over the content.
"

Councilman Phil Farley, the City Council liaison to the Visual Arts Commission, brought the matter to the commission's
attention during their July 2013, meeting at the Rialto Theater.   Farley told those gathered he shared this with Mayor
Cecil Gutierrez and others who agreed the commission should back down from painting Workman's utility box.  This is
especially ironic as Mayor Gutierrez and others refused to lobby the same Visual Arts Commission over complaints
regarding the Chagoya exhibit in Loveland's Museum saying such interference in art content by the council would be
contrary to city policy and "inappropriate."

As recorded in the minutes of the Visual Arts Commission July 11, meeting, Workman complained about the ascetics of
the proposed art.  Below is what was recorded from the meeting,

"Transformation Project, Tony Workman: Tony Workman expressed his displeasure with the transformer cabinet in
front of Art Castings being painted for the 2013 Transformations Project. He wished the cabinet to be painted beige
to match his building. After discussion, the commission was in support of not using that cabinet due to the close
proximity of the cabinet to the entrance and an alternate location be found. Roger moved that the box not be
painted. Nancy seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously. Kim O’Field (Power Department
representative) said that the Power Department would be responsible for repainting the cabinet. She indicated that
the rust on the cabinet would be addressed prior to the box being painted the City’s standard green color."

Workman acknowledges he later painted the box beige without city permission (see picture right) despite the
recorded minutes claiming the city would return the box to its original green color.   Accroding to Workman, "
When I
painted it I knew I was in the wrong but was making a statement that I thought it was silly that no one could give
me a good answer why the boxes needed to be that god awful green
."  He went on to say the city hadn't painted it in
26 years but he didn't want anyone else painting either.


Is There A Staff Agenda?

Loveland Cultural Services Director Susan Ison is the senior staff member from the city assigned to the Visual Arts
Commission.  During the Chagoya controversy Ison sought national attention to critique Loveland residents offended
by the art.  Ison is reported to have referred to the religious in Loveland as the "Christian Taliban" and even sought
national recognition later for defending the city's sponsorship of Chagoya's attack on the Catholic Church and
Christians in general.    Ison proudly displays her award in her city office.

While Ison has not commented publicly on the "Witch on Wilson" utility box controversy, she is aware of the matter
and expresses strong views according to one official who spoke with her about the issue.  According to the official who
asked not to be identified in this article for fear of retribution by the art community, Ison is alleged to have said the
painting is not meant to be demonic and she doesn't believe the character painted on the box looks anything like a
"witch."
Nicknamed the "witch on Wilson" utility box
welcomes members of the Celebration Church
each Sunday to their dismay at the parking
entrance to their church
Capricious Power
Visual Arts Commission refuses to re-consider location of art
Artist Responds
Read Ellis' Explanation For the Paintings
Above:  Triqueta, formerly a
symbol used by pagans, is
now a modern symbol of cults
worshiping witchcraft, blood
sacrifices and the devil.
Above:  The utility box that
Art Casting refused to allow
the city to paint. It was later
painted by the building owner
the same color as the
building.
Loveland Visual Arts
Commission

Chair:
Sherri Heckel Kuhlmann.

Commissioners
Roger Clark
Greg Hoff
Angela Canada Hopkins
Nancy Jakobsson
Maryjo Morgan
Judy O’Gorman
Margie Rosborough
Another side of the utility
box at the Celebration
Church parking lot entrance
off Wilson and 1st. Street
(click on image to enlarge)
Pastor Luis Campos
www.iglesiadeloveland.com
Atom symbol used by
atheists as a symbol of their
disbelief.  Adopted in 1963, it
is recognized by the federal
government as a
"religious symbol"
"I based my art more
specifically on Science
Fiction.  My initial goal was
to capture the viewer’s
attention with visually
striking images.  There are
specific elements of art that
I consciously select in order
to achieve the desired
impact, and color was one
of those elements."

Margie Ellis