“Start each day with a positive thought and a grateful heart.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Every time someone from Lyons drives past the triangle of land at the east entrance to the town, they are greeted by an eight-foot-tall metal heart sculpture. Perhaps, it gives one pause, and a moment to consider love… The love of living in such a unique and sweet town, of having a home filled with love, or just loving life. The Town of Lyons came up with a slogan “Love, Lyons” to promote tourism a few years ago. It was represented someone signing a love letter; and it was typical of the comment most often said when a local told someone from out of town that they were from Lyons: “Oh, I love Lyons.”
For the past two years, Lyons was graced with two heart sculptures, done by the same artist, Mitch Levin. It was part of the Lyons Arts and Humanities Commission (LAHC) public art collection, “heARTS of LYONS,” which puts pieces of loaned art on Lyons’ main streets for a two-year period, for a stipend.
When LAHC member Melinda Wunder visited Levin in his studio two years ago to inspect the piece he was offering, a large heart sculpture under construction, she eyed the second one, and felt it too was meant to be part of the year’s “Love, Lyons” theme. The second smaller one encouraged people to attach a “love lock” to its structure to represent their love for another person, or the town, or the world.
Levin’s work “Time Piece,” located in the town’s triangle spot, is now reaching its exhibition end date. It will be removed in late March or early April, and may be placed in a spot in Loveland. While many people expressed that Lyons “needed” the sculpture to be permanent, the cost in the thousands is not in the Town’s normal budget.
“Yes, it’s true Mitch’s work is due to move,” said Wunder. “We’ll be sad to see it go, but we do have another piece slated for that landing pad. His other sculpture on Main Street (called “Unconditional,” which is 36” x 36” x 42” and made of steel) is pending removal in 2021, but I think it will remain indefinitely until Mitch wants to remove it or the LAHC needs the landing stone. Since it’s an interactive work, and rather colorful, the LAHC is hesitant to let it go. We think it adds fun and quirky interest to Main Street.”
“It was inspired by the lock bridge in Paris,” said Levin. “I liked seeing my piece in the public for the first time in Lyons, and that people could interact and put on their own locks. I would love to see them continue to sell locks and keep it getting covered and interacted with. This way you leave your mark on Lyons, like it left on you. You can put their initials or name on the lock. People then become a part of this creative process.”
There are three major such bridges with “love” padlocks on them, with the most famous being the Pont des Arts in Paris. In 2015, after a few warnings, the government removed thousands of padlocks, and any that came after, because of fear that the weight would collapse the bridge.
How and when did Levin fall in love with metal sculptures? It started when he was young and was offered an opportunity to experiment in different kinds of art. When he was approximately ten to twelve years old, he remembers his parents being called to the principal’s office with him because he liked to draw in class. His parents apologized, but the teacher pointed out that it was the distraction that was caused by the urge to draw that had to stop, and not the actual drawing. He was then allowed to enter a protégé children’s art project, in his hometown of Chicago, even though he was younger than most of the other students. For two years, he was able to explore all different art forms, including crafts, pottery, and more.
This exposure to different art forms prepared him for a project he took on later in life. In 2013 he opened a studio in Boulder with five other artists, all in different mediums, such as metal, wood and glass. Today the co-op, called Studio 5.5, has nine artists.
Back in Chicago, as a young man, he continued his education and experimentation by first studying architecture, as an undergraduate, and then graphic design. Many years later, he returned to college and took courses for a Master’s degree in industrial design.
After college, he started his own company, making custom furniture and one of a kind art work. He got into metal work. And, now, he works with metal and mixed materials. His clients are usually stores, restaurants, and individuals, and they usually request pieces that are modern, contemporary, or mixed media.
“My goal is to do more large public art,” said Levin. “But it’s hard to get into. I’ve been trying for five to seven years, and when I saw the Lyons art ‘call out,’ I was eager to be a part of it. Now, two years later, my next project was just installed in Superior. It is giant angel wings made of over 200 shovels. The texture of the metal reminded me of feathers. It took two years to collect the shovels, and then construct it, working on it on and off.”
He is continuing along this line with a six-foot-tall cowboy head with hat and bandanna as his current project. He is surrounded by inspiration, not only at his co-op, but in his home. His daughter is an illustrator, his son is an architect, and his wife is a painter.
The larger heart sculpture, is made out of found and reclaimed fabricated steel, aluminum, and has concrete elements. It was made from various gears and metal pieces. Levin points out that this means that the piece, which is made of all different metals, will age and weather naturally, showing signs of wear, purpose and time. Some may see the metal heart’s resemblance to the popular Steampunk movement works. Levin admits that he has always been fascinated with that.
“My artwork Time Piece was visually created to represent the inner workings of a watch or clock,” said Levin. “They say time is but a collection of moments wound together, each one a connection with another person or place. The individual gears are a symbol of all these people we come into contact with, sometimes fully engaged and other times just brushing by them. The uniqueness varies but the idea remains the same. The connections we make sometimes are so solid they cannot be moved or broken. The fact that the gears or windings are no longer moving, symbolize that life may cease… but the impact we had and connections we made are everlasting. The shape of the heart should signify to all of us that these ideals are better and bigger than all of us surrounded by Love.”
Lyons residents can enjoy the last months of Time Piece by musing about love as they drive by. Or, stop and park on the street, between the sculpture and the Bank of the West. Take a photo next to the giant heart, and share it with friends. It would make for a great Valentine’s Day photo! The smaller piece is located near the space that held Reruns, which use to sell locks for the heart. People can now buy one at Western Stars Gallery and Studio, or bring one of their own. Again, it would be a lovely gesture to visit it, and perhaps add a “love lock” of their own for Valentine’s Day.
“We have been overjoyed to have Mitch Levin’s work at the entrance to our community for nearly two years now as part of our temporary sculpture program, heARTS of LYONS Outdoor Arts Collection,” said LAHC director Lauren Click. “The artwork is the perfect mix of attractive, gritty, and uplifting to welcome guests and residents to Town. We are sad to see it leave, but look forward to installing new artwork to take its place. Thank you, Mitch, for lending Lyons your art!”
LYONS ARTS AND HUMANITIES COMMISSION = PUBLIC ART
The Lyons Arts and Humanities Commission (LAHC) and the Town of Lyons announce a call for artists for entries in their public art collection now known as the heARTS of LYONS. It intends to judiciously expand its current outdoor art collection through the careful selection of an additional six high quality pieces. To be considered for this two-year commitment, artists are encouraged to do an online submission for up to three pieces for juried consideration for a one time $30 submission fee. (Submit Online). The window for submissions is now through FEBRUARY 22, 2021.