Both looking at and creating art can be healing. Sculptor and painter Anita Miller, Lyons, has worked with people who suffered from post traumatic stress (PTS) and found that art was an excellent way to touch their souls. She has worked with veterans and families of the fallen to create a traveling memorial, “Eyes of Freedom” which addresses veterans and suicide. It has traveled across the country.
She combined those healing skills with her memories of how a few Native American nations feel that the owl is a symbol of change and felt it fit what Lyons had experienced: a change from death to rebirth since the flood. She brought the idea of doing a restorative sculpture of an owl in a tree with a bell as a commemorative piece of the Great 500 Year Flood of 2013 to the Lyons Arts & Humanities Commission (LAHC). They liked the idea and offered a commission to create the art.
Miller has experience in bronze, but not experience sculpting owls or bells. She approached James Moore a Ft. Collins sculptor who knew how to sculpt birds, to help her bring her image to realization.
“He is the one that knows wildlife sculpture, so he took the lead on the owl and tree, and I worked under his tutelage at his studio. Sculpting birds is a very specific skill. He was a great teacher,” said Miller. “We worked at his shop on the tree and owl. I took the bell back here to Lyons, and I sculpted the bell’s bas relief of the owlets and Steamboat mountain landscape. Then, after the sculpting was completed, James went to work to make the molds and get it into wax and to the foundry. Definitely, James did the lion’s share of the hard work.”
“My father has been influential in teaching me some of my skills as a craftsman and artist,” said Moore. “but I learned virtually all my sculpting and metal working skills from other sources. I worked at a small foundry when in college and have taken sculpting workshops from other sculptors. I also hold a BA in ceramics.”
The Bell of Renewal consists of a great horned owl sitting on top of an approximately six-foot-tall tree (which acts as the stand), and it is building a nest, symbolizing Lyons manual road to recovery. A large bell is hanging from the branch, and its bas relief of owlets symbolizes the rebirth of Lyons after the flood. On the back of the bell is a bas relief of Lyons Steamboat Mountain, St. Vrain River and surrounding landscape.
The sculpture has been installed next to the Fourth Street bridge, along the St. Vrain River, across from the Rocky Mt. Botanic Gardens. The dedication ceremony took place on September 11, 2020, the seven-year anniversary of the Flood. LAHC Chair Lauren Click presided. Mayor Nick Angelo rang the bell for the first resounding echo into Bohn Park. Several Town staff members and Commission members were present, and a video was taken for posterity.
The Bell has been added to the heARTS of Lyons Outdoor Public Art Collection as Legacy artwork – a permanent piece of public art in the Town’s collection. LAHC raised funds from various people and the Town of Lyons (see photograph). Patrons of art can purchase commemorative gold-colored bells for $3 as part of their fundraiser. Currently they are available at Western Stars Gallery & Studio 450 Main Street, Lyons