Loveland's Independent News Source
Loveland April 21, 2015

When art philanthropist Doug Erion purchased a replica sculpture at an art auction of a naked woman
holding grapes in one hand and a child in the other, it went unnoticed in his hometown of Loveland,
Colorado.  Perhaps it was mostly noticed by other wealthy bidders while Erion's progressively higher bids
finally won as the auction's highest for the replica piece at $7,700.   Another $980 for shipping to
Loveland, Colorado and the deal was complete at $8,680.

The infamous "
Bacchante and Infant Faun" modeled in Paris by American artist Frederick William
MacMonnies in 1893 caused public controversy when first planned to be displayed in Boston's Public
Library in the late 1800's.  Bacchus is the Roman name for the Greek god Dionysus, the god of wine,
intoxication and general debauchery.   The young naked woman is holding grapes in one hand while
attempting to dance all while holding a child in another.

Had anyone from the public bothered to attend Loveland's
Visual Arts Commission (VAC) later that year
they would have learned what the members of VAC also learned;
the replica of Bacchante and infant Faun
was purchased for the City of Loveland and not for Doug Erion's own private collection.

As documented in the minutes from the meeting, Erion only informed his fellow "subcommittee"
members of his interest in the piece and didn't inform the VAC until later of the city's obligation to pay
$8,680.  Below is a clarification from the minutes of the August 11, 2011 VAC meeting regarding the policy
which remains intact to this day,

"As the commission reviewed the paperwork provided, clarification was requested regarding the bid
consideration process:  If the anticipated bid is under $8,000, Doug Erion will notify the subcommittee
for action; if over $8,000, the entire commission will be notified prior to a bid being placed. Nancy
motioned to store the sculpture no longer than 5 years subject to revisiting this motion.."

Spending City Dollars - Erion Prevails Again With Equinox

Outside of the VAC, the City of Loveland maintains tight control over public employees and their ability to
spend taxpayer resources without going through a lengthy approval process.  In the early 2000's the
Loveland Reporter-Herald exposed city employees using credit cards to acquire goods and services for the
city bypassing the formal procurement process.  Considerable time and energy was spent investigating
one purchase of a leather jacket as a retirement gift for a retiring employee in the hundreds of dollars
followed by weeks of public commentary and follow-up articles.  However, when it comes to art
acquisitions the newspaper is conspicuously silent; even deleting comments critical of Erion or his
associates from their website.

Erion left the VAC before seeking $250,000 of public money from his former city commission to construct
the now well known "Equinox" industrial looking structure near the intersection of I-25 and US 34.   The
three carousel style horses along a simulated roller-coaster track (see image right) was another vision of
Erion for Loveland.  Nicknamed "Carney trash" by disapproving locals, the competition for the "sculpture"
was hardly nail bighting as Erion's own VAC was put in-charge of the decision.

Heir to his parent's Johnson Publishing fortune,  Doug Erion is also the President of the Erion Foundation
established by his parents in 1986 to perpetuate donations to worthy local charities.  The only non-Erion
family board member of the foundation is
Roger Clark who is also reported to LovelandPolitics to be the
longtime Erion family attorney.  Following Doug Erion's departure from the VAC, Clark presided over the
selection of Erion's group to be awarded $250,000 for their "Equinox" creation now towering over the I-
25 and US 34 interchange.

The City of Loveland obtained $163,000 from the Colorado Department of Transportation to fund the art
piece at the intersection while kicking-in $62,000 from city taxpayer funds.   McWhinney's Centerra and
the Colorado Department of Transportation each sent one representative to the VAC to assist in their
decision.  The losing entries included the "Heart of Loveland" and "Loveland Totem" submitted by less
influential artists and pictured to the right of this story.  Erion's collaborators on Equinox included Jack
Kreutzer and Doug Rutledge.

Erion wasn't the first amateur Loveland artist to be compensated by former colleagues shortly after
leaving the city commission.  Loveland artist Alyson Kincade's resigned from the city commission ended so
she could be given a lucrative city contract to provide art for the Loveland Library expansion.  Eleven oil
paintings by Kinkade were installed in the newly expanded building.   The first five hang in the stairwell
leading to the computer lab of the library while six others hang in the corridor of the main lobby.

Visual Arts Commission - No "Cooling-off" Period Required

Despite the VAC having the power to award literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to individual artists
there is no "cooling-off" period for former members of the commission before they lobby the group to
purchase their own work or that of friends.  The State of Colorado, for example, prohibits any member of
the State Legislature from lobbying for two years after departing office as do some 33 States in one form or
another.  Currently, a member of Loveland's VAC can literally resign from the commission and lobby
former colleagues to buy their work during the very same meeting due to the lack of a "cooling-off" period.

Loveland's VAC art acquisitions are largely funded through a 1% set-aside from all capital improvement
projects passed by Loveland's City Council in 1986 as a special city ordinance to fund art in public places.   
In a March 27, 2015 letter to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Roger Clark called for people to recognize
what makes Loveland special while also encouraging people to express contrary views.  His letter stated,

"I am saddened that some of our citizens may miss the joy that life here can bring. It's easy to dwell on
things we consider troublesome — roundabouts, economic development incentives, having to park a
few blocks from our destination, a bike race or a downtown event that makes us detour from our
normal route, school policies — whatever. "

Ironically, readers of LovelandPolitics report their polite yet contrary views posted in response to the
letter were removed from the Loveland Reporter-Herald website.  According to the newspaper, they
haven't removed any comments for content from Roger Clark's letter.

Doug Erion Looks To Build A Named Legacy - Some Question Why On The Public's Dime?

Erion has been lobbying for years for an expansion to Loveland's downtown museum.  Hoping to garner
more resources from the newly forming DDA (Downtown Development Authority) many insiders already
refer to the museum's expansion by the expected name of the "Erion Art Gallery."  Erion's near ubiquitous
presence downtown is difficult to escape since he is depicted in a larger than life mural on the side of a
building.  Erion's partner in the Equinox structure, Doug Rutledge, is also a member of the
controlled downtown partnership likely providing Erion influence with that group as well.

Whether Erion will be immortalized through the naming of a new city structure, street or exhibit remains
to be seen.  In the meantime, local artists are left asking why a man with so much inherited personal
wealth needs city resources to promote his name and art.
The Public's Price for Debauchery
How one man's opinion of art and quest for immortality
influence public resources
Bacchante and Infant Faun
Heart of Loveland
Loveland Totem
Doug Erion's unpopular "Equinox"
was selected by the VAC over
arguably more appealing
submissions shown below.