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Chihuly sculpture staying put

SLOC and donors purchase Games piece for $625,000

With help from private donations and Olympic organizers, a glass sculpture will become a Winter Games legacy.

After gathering almost $300,000 from private donors, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee has decided to contribute the additional $325,000 needed to purchase the Dale Chihuly 27-foot-high glass sculpture known as the Olympic Tower sculpture in Abravanel Hall.

"We're dealing with a bit of a cultural legacy for the Games," said Ray Grant, artistic director for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's Olympic Arts Festival. "It's something that we hadn't even considered before the Games."

The SLOC donation was formally announced Tuesday afternoon when Grant presented a proposal to the Salt Lake County Council to permanently lend the Chihuly sculpture to the county after its donation. The only catch: The piece will have to stay in Abravanel Hall.

"It's designed as site specific work . . . it was commissioned for the spot," Grant said.

Council members gladly accepted the SLOC donation despite some reservations about the requirement that it had to remain at Abravanel. Primarily, they were concerned about disputes over the location of the sculpture if extenuating circumstances forced them to move it.

"While we don't plan to move it, I would worry about having to keep it there no matter what," Councilman Jim Bradley said.

Bradley, like his fellow council members, agreed that Abravanel was the best place to keep the piece.

"When you look at everything that came together during the Olympics . . . it was there," he said.

Grethe Peterson, an Olympic Cultural board member who helped organize the fund-raising effort, said if the sculpture did have to be moved sometime in the future, there were ways to allow it.

Because Chihuly has said he does not want it moved, however, the circumstances would have to be very compelling.

"When you're dealing with public art, you will never get everyone to agree," she said. "But the contract does address those disagreements.

If you've got reasonable people, you can work out these things."

The SLOC donation may be the most notable, but Peterson said the real fund-raising success came from the many private donations that helped raise $300,000.

"From $50, $100, $500 and $1,000, and we have not made public appeals," she said. "This money has come in because people have wanted to help."

The sculpture has been valued at approximately $900,000. When the fund-raising effort began, Chihuly offered to sell the sculpture for $625,000, as long as it would remain in Abravanel Hall and that the public would be able to view it without attending a show.