“Viva Marmo Colorado a L’Italiana!”
The sun twinkled over 14 inches of new snow as I arrived in Marble along with four other members of the Carbondale Public Arts Commission (CPAC). We were there to view the mining operations of RED Graniti, the Italian company that has been running the quarries for the past two years. Although the mines had been closed for three days due to avalanche danger, General Manager Daniele Treves was unfazed. He handed out hard hats and mukluks and piled us into four-wheel drive vehicles.
As exuberant Italians drove us up the dangerous one-lane road that leads to the mine, we ogled the enormous blocks of white marble that lined the road.
We were on a quest, searching for bases that would show off the outdoor art that graces Carbondale each year. Inspired by the marble base under James Surls’ “Sewing the Future” sculpture, CPAC had asked Colorado Stone Quarries if they would donate stone to use as bases for CPAC’s Art aRound Town sculptures.
Treves had proved more than happy to accommodate us.
After arriving at the mine, we received a grand tour. Treves and his assistant, Stefano Mazzuchelli, both of whom speak the same Italian dialect, explained that their company wanted to build a strong relationship between the community and the mine.
To that end, RED Graniti, which is headquartered in Massa, Italy, has elected to use the name Colorado Stone Quarries. Noting that marble from this mine was used to build the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., and wanting to make sure that people know that this marble – called “marmo” in Italian – is wholly American, RED Graniti has christened the quarry’s galleries “Washington” and “Lincoln.” The company has also upgraded roads, improved mining methods and safety, and reduced dust and debris around the mine.
Treves and his crew showed us how blocks were cut from the mountain’s white marble veins. Enormous diamond saws hew out chunks measuring ten by six by eight feet. Those blocks are loaded on gargantuan trucks, transported down the mountain and then hauled to Delta, Colorado. From there, they travel by train to seaports and are shipped to their final destinations.
Outside the galleries, the miners had piled up huge chunks for marble for us to inspect – and to claim for CPAC’s use! If a piece seemed too big, Mazzuchelli would climb aboard his towering vehicle and chip away at it, asking us to tell him when it reached the size we wanted. We felt like kids playing with Tonka Toys the size of mountains. Treves and Mazzuchelli couldn’t have been more accommodating as we picked out 20 tons for marble for CPAC’s use.
Ultimately, the acquisition of the marble bases became a community effort that stretched from Marble to Silt and Delta.
Daniele Treves referred CPAC to Vic Girardi, who volunteered to haul the heavy blocks from the mine to Delta and then to Pines Stone Company. In turn, Pines Stone donated a portion of their labor to shape the stones and haul them back to Carbondale.
Architect Tim Hagman, a Carbondale local, designed mounting plates free of charge. After being awarded a bid for cutting the base plates, Cody Christensen, owner of Christensen Welding, donated all of his labor for cutting the plates and mounting them onto the marble.
Thanks to Laurie Lindberg and the Town of Carbondale public works team, the marble bases were set in place in time for the June premier of Carbondale’s newest sculptures during the 2015-16 Art aRound Town exhibit.
Along with everyone else involved, I felt gratified by the donors’ generosity. The project proved a delightful and bonding experience.
When you see the new sculptures – they’re easy to spot on their gorgeous white marble bases – please join me in saying molto grazie to Treves, Mazzuchelli, RED Graniti and all the other benefattore who proved so willing to help propel Carbondale into a dazzling center for the arts.