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Mandala Gondola to Take Flight
Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Look up in the sky. More art is flying by.

At least, that’s what Sun Valley skiers and boarders will be able to say come ski season.

Sun Valley will put a second gondola car wrapped in art online in time for its 2017-18 ski season.

The “Mandala Gondola,” as it’s being called, will join Ketchum artist Ralph Harris’s art piece, which went online in 2014.

The new gondola features bright blue, purple, yellow and white flowers on the Mandala Gondola side.

Images reflecting the total solar eclipse that took place in Sun Valley this summer with its diamond ring burst will occupy another side.

A third side boasts a moon cycle and the remaining side, rivers and geese.

It was sponsored by Earl and Sue Cohen and David and Trish Wilson in honor of fellow skier, photographer, businessman and friend Joe Bauwens, who passed away in July 2017 after a second career sharing his photography skills with the community.

One of Bauwens’ favorite quotes will be printed inside the car.

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness and truth,” says the quote taken from Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

The art for the car was designed by Rachel Teannalach, a Boise artist who spends a lot of time in the Sun Valley area. She was chosen to do the art after the Ketchum Arts Commission surveyed the art of those who have submitted art for Ketchum’s utility boxes.

“Whereas Ralph’s is realistic, this is abstract, more experiential,” said Courtney Gilbert, who chairs the Ketchum Arts Commission. “Yet, it’s related to nature and the landscape. I don’t think, for instance, that neon wouldn’t have gotten past the Forest Service—they would not want that in the forest.”

Sun Valley became the first ski resort to have a gondola wrapped with art on Forest Service land in the United States when it strung up the gondola featuring Harris’s work featuring the Boulder Mountains with two large elk and one baby calf in the foreground.

Hailey’s Windy City Arts, which wrapped the gondola, has since fielded calls from other resorts wanting to follow suit, said co-owner Linda Larsen.

But Sun Valley is still the only resort in the United States to have a gondola that’s completely wrapped from top to bottom, said co-owner Troy Larsen.

“Some have graphics on the bottom panels but ours go up the full length of the gondola,” he said.

The gondola is wrapped in a perforated vinyl window film that; allows those aboard to see out. Those outside cannot see in. The wrap is extremely weatherproof and UV rated, as well.

Skilled technicians at Windy City Arts scan or photograph the artwork in high resolution, then enlarge it to the scale of the car. They apply it to the car with adhesive backing.

“People ask if it’s hard to do. Absolutely, it’s hard to do,” said Troy Larsen. “It’s like wrapping an egg—it’s not flat. And that takes a very skilled technician, and our guys have wrapped everything from utility boxes to buses, cars and trucks.”

Given their previous experience, technicians were able to knock four hours off the installation this time, getting it down from 16 hours to 12.

This project, like the first, is the result of a partnership between the Ketchum Arts Commission, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Ketchum and Sun Valley Company.

“People love it,” said Gilbert. “I’ve heard that some skiers know what number the gondola is and wait for it. Or, if they see it coming, they’ll wait a few cars to ride it.”

Gilbert said the gondola will be trotted out for the public before it’s put to work.

She added that the Ketchum Arts Commission would like to wrap up to three more cars with art. This car costs $7,500 she said.

“We’ll never wrap them all—that’s a hundred-plus cars,” she said. “But it’s a great opportunity for artists to have their work seen by people from all around the world. And one of the best things is that it catches people by surprise.”

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