BEAVER CREEK — There’s a big hole in the heart of the Beaver Creek community, and a local group is trying to refill it with bronze.
After 16 years, “Repentance,” a massive bronze sculpture of a bear and a Native American boy that stood proudly between the Saint James and the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, was finally moved by its owner.
A small, spirited group is raising money to replace it. Artist Walter Horton died, but there’s one clay mold left and they want to cast a sculpture to replace it.
It’s gone and people miss it. Every day broken hearted people walk into Walt Horton Fine Art gallery and ask Peggy Horton, “Where’s the bear?”
Every day Peggy Horton has to tell them that it’s gone and that the new owner moved it. Reactions vary, but no one is ever happy.
Deana Allen was moved to tears. She has been coming to Beaver Creek for more than two decades, first as a child with her family and now with her husband and their children. They always stopped for a few minutes to visit the bear and the boy.
“It’s a touchstone for all the memories from Beaver Creek over the years,” Allen said. “I’m not huge art connoisseur, and I’ve never cried over a piece of art before. But I stood there and cried when I heard it was gone.”
She fired off a letter to 15 people including Peggy Horton at Walt Horton’s gallery and the ski company.
Peggy Horton, Walter’s widow, responded with thanks and as they talked Allen learned she’s not the only one who feels this way — not by the longest shot.
“Every day of the year people come in and ask ‘Where’s the bear?’” Peggy Horton said. “They’re disappointed that it’s not there. It has become an icon for the community. I had no idea how emotionally attached to it people are. It’s snowboarders, little kids, older people and second-home owners. It transcends all that.”
Ya gotta have art
Peggy Horton owns the rights to it, and the rest of Walter’s prodigious body of work, but financially she can’t do it on her own.
They’re trying to raise $300,000. They’re looking for an existing local nonprofit to handle the money. It can go anywhere Beaver Creek, they said, but it needs to be a permanent place, somewhere visible.
“It would be wonderful to have it back there because Walter created it, but more than that it’s part of the community,” Peggy Horton said.
Taylre Derby has been coming to the Beaver Creek for years. That bear and boy bronze sculpture is one of the pleasant pictures she keeps in her mind’s eye.
“Walking away, that is the one thing I remembered and was looking forward to seeing again,” Derby said.
Right now, there’s nothing in that space.
A young girl has had her picture taken with the bear every winter since she was 2 years old. She wanted one last picture before she left for college, but she won’t get it. There’s the athlete who prepares for the Birds of Prey by sitting with the bear while he visualizes his upcoming race as he has done in years past, but not this year.
They want to replace “Repentance” before the 2015 World Championships. That means they need to raise the money and place the order with the foundry no later than mid-June.
“It’s important to have a constant,” Allen said. “They can close my favorite sandwich shop or store, but this is different. This sculpture is like that for us. It is our mission to not only replace the monument but to give people back their memories.”
About Walt Horton
Walt Horton was a cartoonist, bronze sculptor, invented sling golf and collected rare Biblical manuscripts, but you know him best for his sculptures depicting children and animals — such as “Repentance.”
He told the story to Real Vail that in the early 1990s. He was visiting Aspen and wandered into a gallery looking for a children’s sculpture. He had no experience with sculpture other than “in school playing around with Play-Doh.” He sculpted a little boy reading a book to his teddy bear. The gallery called a couple hours later, saying it had been sold. A couple hours after that he got another call saying a second one had been sold.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.