The one thing that may best illustrate what kind of operation the Green Box Arts Festival is, happens to be rather uninteresting on the surface. It's how long the main exhibit, the installation "Cloud City," will be on display.
Just three weeks. To understand the context of that, let's start with the basics.
"Cloud City" appears light and airy outwardly, but its bones, made of steel, Plexiglas and fiberglass, make it both unwieldy and heavy. Up to 11 people can enter the installation at once to wander 16 modules that bubble up off the ground and 36 feet into the air.
Argentinean artist Tomás Saraceno built it last year with architect and engineer Graham Stewart, at the behest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There, "Cloud City" saw half a million visitors while on the Met rooftop for six months. It even weathered the wrath of Hurricane Sandy with no damage.
To build it here as in New York, Stewart and a team of 50 sent the 20-ton sculpture west via eight flatbed trucks, complete with police escort. Some glass components broke, having to be replaced during the two-week assembly in Green Mountain Falls. (On the plus side, Stewart didn't have to worry about, say, closing off a main bike path in Central Park to work.)
"Of all the artists I've worked with, [Saraceno] pushes the materials the most," says Stewart. He calls the artist's part-art, part-futuristic-living-structure-prototype (which you can read about at tomassaraceno.com) "one of the most difficult pieces I've done." It's no empty label, given that Stewart's three businesses send him the world over to make grand projects structurally sound; he's even installed Damien Hirst's famous shark sculpture in the Met.
That Stewart's been hired to return to little Green Mountain Falls by July 14 to take "Cloud City" apart and haul it to its next destination (which, as of press time, hadn't been determined), leaves him in awe of Green Box founder Christian Keesee's generosity and devotion to this area.
"This is where culture starts," Stewart says. "Somebody says, 'Let's do something big.'"
The festival was born back in 2009 as a "family show," Keesee writes via e-mail. And every year since — except for last year, when the event was cancelled last-minute due to the Waldo Canyon Fire — has brought out artists, musicians and local artisans to lead classes on cooking, flower arranging and numerous other activities. (See "A breath of fresh air," June 30, 2011.) It's also helped catalyze some bigger improvements, including a revamping of the Outlook Lodge, a pavilion next to the Pantry Restaurant for outdoor events, and the scenic amphitheater called Bear Crossing Studio.
"I think it is important for GMF to be thought of as an art destination," writes Keesee, who spent summers here as a child, en route to becoming a wildly successful Oklahoma businessman.
"I do not want the festival to grow any larger," he continues, "but I would like to continue attracting world-class artists while keeping the family atmosphere."