Tavares Strachan’s Meaningful Public Installation, “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER”

This neon artwork addresses a double-edged phrase we're all familiar with

Set for a space in Telluride, Colorado, multi-media artist Tavares Strachan‘s newest public art installation promises “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER”—a statement that can be interpreted in various ways, depending on the viewer’s mindset. The words will be displayed in vibrant pink neon underneath Telluride’s signature gondola, which makes three stops on its 13-minute route (up 10,540 feet) to the town of Mountain Village. The rugged National Forest Service land on either side provides stark contrast to the work, emphasizing it for those above and burying it from view elsewhere.

“The project is really meant to be both a gesture of solidarity and a call to action in a public, well-traveled place,” NYC-based Strachan tells CH. “I was very taken with the idea of having artwork under a free trolley system that connects the mountain to the village. It’s a space we don’t typically think of for art: not just because it’s a democratized space, free for anyone to look at, but because it’s on rugged terrain, a literal mountainside.”

The installation was commissioned five years ago—long before our world turned upside down. Before, the statement acted as a phrase for hope. Now, many may wonder whether there’s truth to it. If we convince ourselves it is so, powerful progress can be made, Strachan assures. “The sculpture WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER was conceptualized as the tip of the iceberg. The visible portion of years of thinking, as well as on the ground activism. The message is inherently local while gesturing at a broader public: Who is ‘we?’ Are we in this together? What does unity mean? What can we accomplish together?” Strachan continues.

“This project seeks to bring the community together and to add to the narrative of Telluride,” he says. “I was interested in shedding light on local issues around housing, climate, food, education, giving and immigration and coming together to research, and address some of these questions at a local level that resonates more broadly in our current climate. In this moment of nationalism, it’s particularly difficult to manage any global issue without zooming in on local issues.”

When the project was proposed, Strachan was hopeful to address the issues that plague Telluride, a town supported by tourism (skiing in the winter and adventure sports in the warmer months) where the local population is just below 3,000. In this microcosm of the United States, where hospitality workers uphold the town for its seasonal visitors, the struggles of everyday life are magnified, and Strachan hopes his words are also a plan. It’s a plan founded upon the principles of unity and togetherness, terms that oftentimes sound hollow. In partnering with the Telluride Foundation and the local Ah Haa School for the Arts, Strachan tethers himself to his words, working with initiatives that aim to improve the lives of locals.

The issues that have been brought to the forefront during quarantine are always in our society, just hidden

“The beauty of the artwork is it seems to ask a question,” Strachan tells CH. “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER is a statement that, once it enters your head, asks you, ‘Wait, are we in this together?’ It has certainly evolved to take on a meaning I couldn’t have imagined when I started planning this project. But I think that’s an encouraging sign. The issues that have been brought to the forefront during quarantine are always in our society, just hidden.”

The unveiling of “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER” is planned for July. More details will be available soon.

Images courtesy of Tavares Strachan/Cultural Counsel