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Starr Wars

Local art treasures to leave state

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In the latest maneuvering over the demise of Colorado Springs artist Starr Kempf's monumental sculptures, the Independent has learned that his grandson plans to move two of the pieces out of state for the next 10 months.

Josh Kempf, the senior managing agent of Starr Enterprises which oversees the artist's sculptures and estate, said two of six sculptures that have been ordered by the city to be taken down will be moved to Traditions, a New Mexico festival market off Interstate 25 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. There, the pieces will be displayed as part of the International Wind Festival -- an annual showcase for wind-powered art and energy sources that will take place between June 14 and Oct. 12.

The decision to move the sculptures follows district Judge David Gilbert's March 15, 2002 ruling that six of the 11 sculptures on the Kempf property, at the base of Cheyenne Canyon in southwestern Colorado Springs, violated city zoning laws and must be removed. The cutoff day for moving the sculptures was last June 15, however Josh Kempf has been working with city officials while trying to find a suitable new home for the sculptures, rather than putting them in storage.

Moving them out of state was far from Kempf's first choice; he said, however he's pleased to be moving forward.

Since Starr Kempf's death in 1995, the artist's estate and its equally beloved and derided sculptures have been at the center of a neighborhood conflict over zoning rules. After several failed negotiations by the city and UCCS to assume responsibility for the property during the '90s, tensions began to rise when Lottie Kempf -- Starr Kempf's youngest daughter -- began offering commercial tours of the property. The influx of visitors turned the normally quiet residential neighborhood into a congested tourist destination, angering many neighbors. A legal battle ensued that ultimately led to the removal order.

The feud, which ultimately pitted family members against one another, began in earnest in November 2001 when Josh Kempf says Lottie Kempf, his aunt, tried to wrest control of the estate from her siblings.

Lottie Kempf did not return calls seeking comment, but Josh Kempf said that family partnership was ultimately agreed upon, In December 2001, Starr Enterprises, the newly-formed trust, began to negotiate a deal with City Council that would have allowed the sculptures to stay where they were.

Part of that deal, Josh Kempf said, was that the family would no longer offer commercial tours of the property, but Lottie Kempf unilaterally, and without the family's input, cancelled that deal, he said.

The family subsequently removed Lottie Kempf as a trustee, and she countered by suing Starr Enterprises, including accusing Josh Kempf and the City of Colorado Springs of being "agents of principal Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations."

Ultimately, Josh Kempf said, the family was at risk of losing their property if they didn't move the famous sculptures. The first two will be moved to New Mexico within the next month, and, though Josh Kempf declined specifics, he said the family is currently negotiating the relocation of the four other sculptures that were ordered removed.

-- Noel Black

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