The Gila Monsters of Globe: Wilshire proposes city art project

An image from Thea Wilshire’s Sept. 25 presentation to the Globe City Council shows the permanent installation art project in Wickenburg, which also uses Gila Monsters. Photo by Carol Broeder.

If Wall Street can have its bulls, why can’t Broad Street have Gila Monsters?

Permanent ones, that is.

Thea Wilshire has proposed a permanent, installation art project for the city — in the form of brass Gila monsters.

She gave a Powerpoint presentation to the Globe City Council at its Sept. 25 regular meeting, entitled, “Building Bridges to Broad Street.”

Councilmember Lerry Alderman thanked Wilshire for her presentation, asking city staff to bring the proposal back to council in the form of a resolution at its Oct. 9 regular meeting.

Resolution No. 1788 states that the council “understands the value of art in the downtown, Historic Preservation District area of the city … and desires a permit process for works of art being placed on city-owned property and rights-of-way to insure the safety of the public.”

The council also recognizes “the additional revenue that Globe business would receive when people come to see downtown works of art,” generating additional economic activity and greater sales tax paid to the city, it states.

“Therefore, be it resolved that the Globe City Council hereby declares its full support for having fine art displayed within the Historic Preservation District with proper permitting,” the resolution states.

Alderman said that, while he knows there is already a donor, he would like to see the city be one of the project’s first donors.

“Would we have to have a different resolution to jump start this?” he asked City Manager Paul Jepson, who replied that since the statues would be less than $1,500, the city “wouldn’t have to get three quotes,” as is required for a larger purchase.

He also said the city could bring a finished Gila Monster into council chambers “for a preview” before the first one is installed.

A lengthy discussion ensued after Councilwoman Charlene Giles asked, “Who defines what fine art is?”

Jepson replied that, with a sign ordinance in place, the city would define “what is a sign, and what is not a sign is fine art.”

Also present at the Oct. 9 meeting, Wilshire reminded the council that, during her Sept. 25 presentation, she had “strongly recommended that the city moving toward an arts commission.”

Describing it as potentially “politically hot,” Wilshire said she would “not want to put that on any city employee.”

She also reminded the council that Globe is a recognized arts community in Arizona.

Linda Oddonetto, the city’s economic development director, concurred that Globe had been officially designated as one of “nine creative communities” in Arizona.

Oddonetto said she would conduct further research on creating a city arts commission and report back to the council.

Ultimately, the council decided to revisit the matter at a regular meeting in the near future.

During her Sept. 25 presentation, Wilshire had talked about other cities with memorable “iconic animal statues,” asking the question, “What about Globe?”

She showed photos of the bronze Mice on Main permanent, installation art project in Greenville, SC.

As a spinoff from the project, various marketing items have come into being such as books, T-shirts and games, as well as a scavenger hunt through town.

Inspired by the Greenville art project, Wilshire thought about the appropriate animal for Globe.

“What’s an interesting, standout animal for Globe?” said Wilshire, answering her own question with, “We’re the seat for Gila County — Gila Monsters.”

She talked about what makes the lizards “fascinating.”

For example, Wilshire said that Gila Monsters:

Are the largest lizards in the U.S.A;

Are one of only a few venomous lizards in the world;

Only have to eat every few months because of fat in their tail;

Are lethargic and spend 95 percent of time in underground burrows; and

Live up to 35 years.

Considering the life-size bronze statues, Wilshire said she thought about initiating an “Adopt-a Gila Monster” program for Globe.

In doing some research, however, Wilshire found it would cost about $5,500 “just for the mold,” plus about $3,700 per statue.

While visiting Wickenburg with a friend, they discovered its installation art project that also uses Gila Monsters.

Working with the Wickenburg City Manager and Chamber of Commerce, Wilshire found a company that would make the statues for $1,200, and the fact the model already exists “took the $5,500 cost away.”

“I would like to have eight to 10 in Globe,” Wilshire told the council.

Toward the end of her presentation, Wilshire said she would like to have the council’s permission to do the project

As a gift to the city, “the statues would belong to the city and would be installed on city property,” she said.

With council approval, donations to the “Adopt-a-Gila Monster” program could go through the city, making donors eligible to receive a tax credit for their donation, Wilshire said.

She said finally that the project would “start the City of Globe art collection and would support initiation of an arts commission.”

The next regularly scheduled Globe City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, in council chambers, 150 N. Pine St. Usually held on Tuesdays, the day of the meeting was changed to accommodate the Nov. 6 general election.


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