TRENDS Diary: Lyons Sculptures Offer Renewal, Comfort and Escape

Anita Miller and co-artist James Moore with the Bell of Renewal, which celebrates the resilience of the town of Lyons after the 2013 flood.

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

As I settled into my new home in Lyons five years ago and began to meet new friends and neighbors, I was struck by how people marked time with “before” and “after.” I realized they were referring to the historic flood that devastated the town in 2013.

To me, that speaks of trauma. Much of my work as an artist has focused on the trauma of war. Through working with veterans and gold star families, I noticed that speaking of loss and recognizing the pain is one step toward healing.

I wanted to recognize the resilience of the Lyons community after the flood with a memorial: a large bronze statue featuring a bell and a great horned owl building a nest in the crook of a Y-shaped branch. I created it with fellow sculptor James Moore, and it was installed on the flood’s seventh anniversary on September 11 near the Fourth Street bridge, which was ground zero during the flood.

I chose an owl for the sculpture because it is thought to be a harbinger of change—and sometimes of death. In addition to the one life lost in Lyons, the flood brought change to the town in many ways. The bell’s bas-relief illustrates the owl’s success as it proudly sits in its new nest with its baby owlet. The bell’s back-side features images of the river and Steamboat mountain, the iconic Lyons landmark.

My hope is that people will ring the bell to mark renewals of their own—whether from the flood or other traumas, such as the pandemic we are now living through. Soon after it was installed, I was delighted to watch a small child pass through the park with her mom and run up to ring it, which confirms my belief that public art can allow us to interact and experience life in a more joyful way.

The Town of Lyons has now installed my latest work at the town library. The large sculpture, which illustrates a bear and a boy reading together, is a celebration of the joy of books and imagination. Looking to find sources of comfort and escape in this difficult time, we could use a spot of brightness right now.

– Anita Miller, as told to Hannah Nordhaus