CHEYENNE –We all have our legacies, both granted and given. Each of us is granted the legacies of those who came before us. A lucky few are able to give new legacies to our community. The Capitol Avenue Bronze project is one of those unique opportunities to impact Cheyenne for generations to come.
“Bronze is durable,” explained Harvey Deselms, the owner of Deselms Fine Art. When looking for pieces that are suitable for installation outdoors, especially in areas like Cheyenne, bronze is the best option. Rain, snow, hail, and time have relatively little effect on the sturdy bronze sculptures. What’s more, bronze sculptures have a special place in the history of the American West.
“The most iconic bronzes are by Frederic Remington. He sought to capture heroic scenes of the American West as the nation feared the west was ‘closing’ to new pioneering exploits,” explained Nathaniel Trelease, the chairman of the Capitol Avenue Bronze Project. Bronze statues date back to Greek and Roman culture. “There is a straight line from that classical tradition and the bronzes of the American West, which represented the noble spirit of the pioneers, the native people they encountered, and the West’s wildlife,” said Trelease.
In the same tradition of remembering the greatest parts of the West, the Capitol Avenue Bronze project will be installing a total of 28 bronze statues on each corner of Capitol Avenue between the historic Railroad Depot and the beautifully restored Capital Building. Donors are encouraged to dedicate each statue to an individual member of the Cheyenne community who has created a positive impact on Cheyenne. Community members are also able to support the project by donating funds to the construction of the stone pedestals required to display each bronze.
Potential donors can contact Trelease at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.CapitolAvenueBronze.org
The origins of the project
Harvey Deselms had a nightmare, as many of us do, about work. In his dream, the art gallery owner was suddenly responsible for the installation of countless bronze statues along one of the major roads in Cheyenne. That dream stayed with him for more than a decade.
Deselms single-handedly kept alive the idea of a street full of bronze. Over time, he helped raise funds to place three sculptures along Capitol Avenue: on the southwest corner of the Post Office building sits a playful scene of children and a mailbox; on the northeast corner of the Wells Fargo block is a highly stylized head of a wolf; and on the northeast corner of Capitol & Lincolnway a solitary cowboy watches over Cheyenne.
Mayor Patrick Collins found himself in a similar position. He envisioned a beautiful downtown that would be an asset to our community. Mayor Collins quickly adopted Harvey’s idea, and made it one of the signature goals of his administration to continue the beautification of downtown.
Early one Monday morning, Trelease, Deselms, and Mayor Collins walked along Capitol Avenue. They agreed on the project principles and the Capitol Avenue Bronze project was launched.
“Our hope is that it will soon transition from the Capitol Avenue Bronze Project to the completed Capitol Avenue Bronze Promenade. We want it to inspire people – tourists and citizens – to walk up and down Capitol Avenue,” said Trelease.
The people behind the promenade
In 2019, Trelease was talking to Deselms when his idea of bronzes on every corner of Capitol Avenue came up spontaneously.
“The idea immediately resonated with me because of my love of sculpture and my belief that this form of public art would be enduring and permanent,” said Trelease. “I had been looking for several years for an opportunity to make a legacy gift on behalf of my family.”
When his mother passed away recently, Trelease decided on a statue to dedicate to her honor. At that time, Trelease suggested to Deselms that he’d be willing to lead a commission to launch and complete the project. Mayor Collins quickly adopted the idea, and Trelease set out to find more people who were both willing and excited to move the Capitol Avenue Bronze project forward.
“Once one was committed, it snowballed into another and another,” said Dixie Roberts. Dixie and Tom Roberts have been donating public art around Cheyenne for the past several years, and have been long-time supporters of Deselms’ dream of a bronze-lined avenue. When Trelease and Deselms started recruiting donors, the Roberts selected two statues. “My Red Tricycle”, a boy riding his tricycle, and “Family Ties”, a brother and sister smiling at one another will be installed along Capitol Avenue in the coming months.
For Caren Murray, another donor for the project, “A corridor of bronze statues along Capitol Avenue will give residents and visitors alike the chance to have an interactive art experience when coming to downtown Cheyenne.” This added value to the community has both cultural and economic benefits for Cheyenne in the long term.
Deselms explained, “If people start at the depot or start at the Capitol and go ‘Oh, look at that bronze,’ ‘Oh, look at that one.’ Then, pretty soon they have lunch, and they say ‘Hey, let’s have a drink.’ Before you know it, they decide to spend the night and see what else is in this town.”
“Once the bronzes have all been installed this path from the Depot to the Capitol will be akin to a treasure hunt,” said Murray. That spirit of exploration, which built Cheyenne from the ground up, will remain at the heart of the Capitol Avenue Bronze Promenade for years to come.
Story by J. Elizabeth Bennett
Elizabeth Bennett serves the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce as the Director of Marketing and Communications. She is passionate about working with the diverse communities in Cheyenne and creating accessible communications material that engages our chamber members.