SALMON — A 3,000-pound bronze grizzly bear, set to seize salmon leaping a waterfall, was scheduled to be dedicated today after a decade of planning, funding and construction of a city sculpture park at the west end of Main Street.
The grizzly was fashioned and donated by Salmon bronze artist Robert Deurloo, whose wildlife sculptures have been exhibited in such premier collections as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The bear and fishes the town was named after were stranded for years on a rock island while an urban renewal committee sought sufficient funding to underwrite a water feature that began to flow for the first time last month, even as native trees such as aspen were planted to ornament the site.
For Ken Beller, who headed the Salmon River Development Agency that purchased a lot across from City Hall to extend downtown commercial space, this afternoon’s planned ceremony caps the efforts of dozens who gave the project life.
“I’m thrilled — and just proud of it. It turned out better than we ever imagined,” Beller said.
Beller is co-owner of McPherson’s, a mainstay clothing and furniture store that sits just east of the sculpture.
The art representing the iconic wildlife of the West has underscored Salmon’s identity as a vacation destination and garnered the attention of visitors who flock to the grizzly and salmon to have their photos taken, Beller said.
“I saw a guy going down the road recently, headed out of town, he caught a look at the bear and turned back to take pictures,” Beller said.
While the bulk of costs for the $150,000 project stemmed from a special taxing district, individual benefactors, as well as community organizations, raised more than $20,000 to ensure the interactive water element and landscaping.
“We had donations from $10 to $5,000, that shows the community support,” Beller said.
In a sign the sculpture has gained a local following, residents called City Hall to ask about the bear’s whereabouts when the bronze was temporarily displaced by work at the site.
“It’s an attraction. We got call after call from people asking, ‘Where is the bear?’ when it went into hibernation,” Salmon Mayor Leo Marshall said.
John McMahon, artist services director for the Idaho Commission on the Arts, said a public art project achieves its mission in a community when it contributes to a sense of place.
Naysayers sometimes emerge at the moment a statue, sculpture, mural or other art is placed in public spaces, McMahon said.
“What we find is that even people who may object at first get used to the notion of it being there and, over time, come to appreciate it,” he said.