On a walking trail near the Rocky Mountain Botanic Gardens, a statue featuring a great horned owl building a nest in a Y-shaped branch stands at the foot of a bridge in Lyons. Hanging from the branch is an intricately carved bell.
On Friday morning, a little girl rushed up to the statue and rang the bell several times — the sound resonated across the path. For artist Anita Miller, this is the moment she has been waiting for since she and fellow artist James Moore first started working on the statue, called the Bell of Renewal, more than a year ago. The statue was created to commemorate the determination of Lyons residents to rebuild after the historic 2013 flood.
“I love to see people interacting with art,” Miller said. “It takes them by surprise. It gets them involved. It brings joy. That’s my goal, to help us find ways to shift toward joy and healing.”
Last month on Sept. 11 — the seventh anniversary of the flood, the Bell of Renewal was installed. The 9-foot-tall bronze statue can be seen just south of the intersection at Fourth Avenue and Prospect Street. Initially, it was slated for installation this summer, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed plans. Until Sept. 11, Miller kept the statue safe in her yard.
With the sound of the South St. Vrain Creek flowing nearby and the trees showing their fall leaves in colors of red and yellow in the backdrop, the statue seems at home, Miller said. Owls, she said, are a symbol for a harbinger of change.
“It’s trying to recognize the trauma and pain that people go through,” Miller said. “I believe that recognition is one of the first steps to healing. We didn’t really have anything in the public space that talked about what they’ve gone through.”
It’s a message that Miller said not only resonates with flood recovery, but also is relevant in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lauren Click, the chair of the Lyons Arts and Humanities Commission, which seeks to promote art in Lyons, said the statue cost about $18,000. The commission helped to raise funds for the statue. The town and private citizens contributed to the cost. A plaque, planned for installation in the next two weeks, will name the donors. The statue will be a permanent part of the commission’s heARTS of LYONS, an outdoor public arts collection.
“The flood still has an enormous impact on Lyons,” Click said. “The history is still very strong here and very present in peoples’ minds. It’s a good reminder to guests about the grit, strength and tenacity that our community has.”
Miller moved to Lyons after the flood and has lived in the town for the past five years. The area where the sculpture now stands was “ground zero,” she said. Floodwaters swept across the town, destroying homes and property and racking up roughly $50 million in damages in Lyons alone.
Wanting to pay homage to the town’s effort to rebuild, Miller had the idea for the statue and knew who she wanted to help bring it to life. She had been following the sculpting work of Moore, who lived in Eaton, and contacted him with the hopes of collaborating. Using Miller’s drawing, Moore sculpted the owl and tree. Miller assisted him as an apprentice, and she sculpted the bell. The front of the bell features a baby owl, and on the back people can see a carving of Steamboat Mountain, the mountain glimpsed when first arriving in Lyons when traveling west on Colo. 66. The Y-shaped branches signify the South St. Vrain and North St. Vrain creeks coming together.
Moore, who has since moved to Wenatchee, Wash., said he believed the town chose “an excellent spot” for the Bell of Renewal. He took part in a small ceremony Sept. 11 to unveil the statue in Lyons.
“For me the primary message of this sculpture is that all of creation is resilient,” Moore wrote in an email. “When disasters occur we can and do rebuild. Often it requires a monumental effort and stretches our abilities beyond what we believe possible.”
Click said she hopes next year to have a party to celebrate the statue’s installation.
Miller is glad the statue has been transitioned from her backyard.
“It’s so much more fun to see it here in public with people interacting with it,” Miller said.
Watch the unveiling
To see a video of the statue being unveiled, visit: youtube.com/watch?v=3fMwdwrTxgI&feature=youtu.be.