By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
It brought a smile to Harvey Deselms’ face when he saw all of the people taking selfies with the any of the two dozen bronze statues in downtown Cheyenne during Cheyenne Frontier Days last week.
People would run their hands over the statues, admiring the craftsmanship it took to create lifelike statues from fire and metal.
“When I see people admiring the statues, it just gives me this sense of pride and gratitude,” Deselms told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.
The Capitol Bronze Project currently has 25 bronze statues placed throughout downtown Cheyenne and feature western figures, people, wildlife and scenes from everyday life that represent the experience of Cheyenne, the state and its residents.
Some of the statues include a lamb, a dog, a jackalope and even a coyote chasing a rabbit.
Deselms is the curator of the project, but he also came up with the idea about 12 years ago to place bronze statues in Cheyenne’s downtown.
The first bronze statue in the project was installed by the 2010 Leadership Cheyenne class at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza.
Deselms got a couple other bronze statues donated and installed downtown in the years following the first installation, but the idea of bronze statues in Cheyenne didn’t take off quite as he had hoped.
“Fast forward to last summer, I had two donors in particular, Dixie Roberts and Nathan Trelease, who were really interested in trying to get this idea back off the ground,” Deselms said. “So I got six donors together and went to Mayor Patrick Collins and said ‘Here’s my idea.'”
Deselms said Collins loved it. He’d seen bronze statues installed in other cities across the region and nation, such as the bronze presidential statues in Rapid City, South Dakota, and wanted to do the same in Cheyenne.
The Capitol Avenue Bronze Project committee, all made up of statue donors, formed quickly afterward.
As of Tuesday, there are 25 bronze statues placed throughout downtown, but Deselms said he has around 30 more that are in the process of either being crafted or installed. The overall cost of the project has been about $1.5 million.
The cost of the statues varies. One of the more recent pieces cost around $40,000 to make and install.
Deselms noted all of the bronze statues are funded by private donors, not public funds.
“In my wildest dreams, I never thought the project would have grown to this size,” Deselms said. “I thought we’d get a couple installed and that would be a great legacy. But it’s just exploded in popularity over the last year.”
Deselms, an art galley owner and curator, believes that the COVID-19 pandemic played a part in the bronze project’s popularity. As everyone sat and reflected on their life in lockdown, they wanted to find a way to leave their mark on the world, Deselms said.
“By being involved in this project, they can not only leave their mark, but also support the city in its beautification goals,” he said.