Coalville invites its residents to dress the ‘Leaf Dancer’
Two years ago, Milt Neeley’s sculpture “Leaf Dancer” won the city of Coalville’s People’s Choice Award for public art.
The wire and metal sculpture, which represents a dancer growing out of a bush, was erected on Main Street as part of Artscape, the Park City Summit County Arts Council’s public art program.
Since then anonymous residents have dressed the dancer in an array of costumes including a cook, an Olympic swimmer and even a nun.
Instead of shaking their heads or getting angry, the Coalville City Council has embraced the tradition and established a program that invites residents to sign up to take turns dressing the “Leaf Dancer” from June 14 through Aug. 16, said Mayor Duane Schmidt.
“The concept of dreassing up the ‘Leaf Dancer’ statue was first brought up by some local kids who dressed it up,” Schmidt told The Park Record. “There have been a lot of people who come into to town to see the leaf dancer, which has become an attraction because they want to see what kind of costume it will be wearing.
“I have always felt it has been done in good-spirited fun and the city council felt we wanted to encourage people to continue doing it,” he said. “We felt it was something postitive for the art and for our city. We do know some people thought the city got angry when someone dressed up the statue, but that is not the case.”
Residents ages 14 and older can apply for the opportunity by describing their ideas on a simple written application available at City Hall or on the City’s website (www.coalvillecity.org ).
Costume ideas will be screened for originality, taste, and diversity and the city will choose 10 dressers.
“They can come and let us know what they want to do, and when we approve of the costumes, we’ll let the people dress the sculpture up on Fridays and it will remain in that costume until Thursday evenings,” he said. “The dresser must live in Coalville and promise to dress the ‘Leaf Dancer’ by midnight, so residents can wake up to a newly dressed statue in the morning.
“We’ll be looking for a broad range of costuming ideas from lots of different people — high school students, grandmothers, fathers, ranchers, office workers, teachers, merchants everybody is invited to apply,” Schmidt said.
When the time expires, city workers put the costumes in storage in the public works facility for future use.
Also, whoever is selected to dress the sculpture will be given a $25 honorarium from Coalville and have their name, a brief bio and a picture of their creation posted on the city’s website.
“That’s a pretty nominal sum,” Schmidt said. “And if someone wants to do it all anonymously, that’s OK with us, too. But they still have to apply.”
Also, the City will pay up to $20 to cover the cost of materials, but receipts must be submitted for reinbursement.
“The thing we ask is there cannot be any duct tape or other adhesives used in the projects,” Schmidt said. “We don’t want anyone to damage the statue.”
Still, the city will encourage some creativity.
“I’m sure people have some great costumes in their closets that the ‘Leaf Dancer’ would like to wear,” Schmidt said. “She’s sometimes a little difficult to fit because her arms don’t move. But a few safety pins or clothespins go a long way in making her look terrific.”
“Leaf Dancer” is just one of the many public art installations that have been erected in Coalville through the Artscape program, Schmidt said.
“I have an office by the Chevron gas station and we have a sculpture of a dragon that was made by local artist Zafod Beatlebrox that has been on display for about two years,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of people who have stopped their cars and have taken a photo of it. I notice many of the license plates are from out of town.
Schmidt thinks many of the people who drive through the town are surprised at what they see, because the art has added to the quality of life in the community.
“I mean, they come to this tiny place and think it’s just a bucolic town, but then are shocked that we have this type of art on dipslay,” he said. “It think it’s good for the town all the way around.
“In fact, the whole public art program has been fantastic,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have their fingerprints all over this program, and it just kind of went along with our plans to rennovate Main Street a few years ago, and it has since added a lot of interest in our town.”
As for “Leaf Dancer” itself, Schmidt has nothing but praise for its creator.
“Milt, who lives in Hooper, by the way, did did a great job with the sculpture,” Schmidt said. “We are honored to have it as part of our scenery.”
For more information about dressing up “Leaf Dancer” visit www.coalvillecity.org . For more information about Park City Summit County Arts Council’s public art program Artscape, visit www.co.summit.ut.us/publicart/program.php.