Casper, Wyo.: Public art in abundance
Road Journals Blog—Casper calls itself the state’s Adventure Capital, but I think that definition is too narrow. It could put up a fight to be the state’s art capital, too—and I don't write that only because the city is home to The Nicolaysen (affectionately called the NIC), one of the Rockies’ preeminent contemporary art museums.
In fact, this has nothing to do with the NIC, but with the copious public art around town—sculptures, friezes, and paintings.
Take Robert Russin. A former art professor at the University of Wyoming, Russin has the distinction of creating the world’s largest bronze head (a 12.5-foot tall, 4,500-pound image of Abraham Lincoln made of 63 individual pieces). Although that piece isn’t in Casper—it broods down I-80, 10 miles east of Laramie—a half-dozen other Russin pieces are.
My favorite is on 2nd St. in front of the Casper branch of the Natrona County Library: Prometheus. It’s actually bigger than Russin’s Lincoln noggin, albeit much more delicate. The 20-foot, half-ton polished bronze shows the Greek mythological figure descending to earth with cupped hands holding the fire of knowledge. What better sculpture for the front of a public library?
Just down the block, at Durbin and E. 1st, is a Pershing Geiger sculpture, The Homesteader, honoring Wyoming pioneers—which couldn’t be more distinct from Russin’s piece. Geiger also sculpted a Wyoming original, Chief Washakie, a Shoshone warrior from the first half of the 19th century. That piece is a block away, at E. First and Wolcott.
A bust honoring Geiger himself sits across the street from The Homesteader and Chief Washakie. It was created by Jim Harris after Geiger’s death in 1996.
Although totem poles are more associated with the Pacific Northwest, Casper has one of its own, the 21-foot-tall Water, Fish, and Fishers Spirit Pole, by John Rosenberger, which celebrates the circle of life and water. Carved out of a ponderosa pine harvested from a pine-beetle infested forest in the Laramie Mountain Range, it was installed in 1998. Although it was treated with sealant, the totem, as expected, has begun to weather, turning slightly silver in color.
Other unexpected public pieces include a Napoleonic coach made of precious metals and sculpted to scale. (More than just a coach, the sculpture also features two bedecked horses pulling it.) This piece is supposedly fully operational. It sits in front of the library at Casper College . . . unless someone has taken it for a ride.
For those who want to see more, a map of the city’s public sculpture is available from the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Dina Mishev wrote about Casper for the September/October 2011 issue of Via.
This blog post was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.