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Past, future meet in new sculpture

By: DENNIS HUSPENI THE GAZETTE
April 18, 2005
0
A futuristic steel pyramid designed to capture the spirit of the past will rise in front of the Pioneers Museum this week. Eight years after the project began, El Paso County Pioneer Association officials are just about finished with the “Follow the Setting Sun” sculpture and ready to start erecting it Wednesday.
The 16-foot-high, 28-footwide sculpture cost $275,000, contains an estimated 6,000 pounds of stainless steel and will be lighted at night. A steel sun, with rays bursting forth, rests inside the pyramid. Lights will illuminate drawings cut through the steel sides of the pyramid. Those drawings depict historical figures, events and places in the Pikes Peak region. Manitou Springs artist Harriet Lee designed the sculpture, and she had a hand in almost all aspects of getting the pyramid built. “We’re talking about a monument,” association President Betsy Shoup said. “We’re not talking about a small statue.” The monument was built to capture the “pioneer spirit” that helped early settlers make the Pikes Peak region what it is today. Shoup said just a statue of, say, a family in a covered wagon wasn’t going to cut it. So the association asked artists to submit their ideas. Lee’s was chosen. “It more or less represents Pikes Peak and the adage ‘Go west, young man, follow the setting sun,’” Lee said. “What’s really interesting is that the Utes (American Indians) used to call Pikes Peak ‘sun mountain.’” Lee said she tried to be as inclusive as she could when designing the historical depictions. “Harriet has been so intelligent in designing this,” Shoup said. Most of the construction occurred at Bo Steel, and Lee was right there with the welders and cutters the whole way. “My clothes got burned, my sleeve got caught in a grinder and torn off, I got sand from the sand-blasting in my eye,” Lee said. “This is not what I imagined I’d be doing when making a sculpture. . . . I basically learned how to be a project manager.” It will take people time to digest the full meaning, and all the events and people represented, Shoup said. A handbook inside the Pioneers museum will explain each drawing and its history. “You go look at any statue and that’s it,” Shoup said. “This interacts with you and makes you think further. It’s a learning tool.” Association members have raised money for the sculpture by selling benches where donors can put their family name, flower beds, and bricks with family names and dates they came to Colorado Springs. Those families were also encouraged to write up their history in the region, and visitors will be able to read them inside the museum. “One of the goals was to make a different, somewhat abstract sculpture that was distinguished from other sculptures and art in the city,” said Matt Mayberry, Pioneers Museum director. “They certainly have done that.” Association officials are hoping for final approval from the Arts Commission on Tuesday evening, so that the sculpture can start going up Wednesday. With use of a crane, they hope to have it mostly completed in two days, Shoup said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0110 or dhuspeni@gazette.com
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