What Has Two Antlers And Flies?
Many Oregon outdoor enthusiasts have spotted a herd or two of elk over the years. It’s presumed, however, that considerably fewer have seen one of the hulking mammals fly 50 feet in the air.
But that’s what happened in downtown Troutdale on Tuesday morning, April 28, when a 2,000-pound, 13-foot-tall bronze elk sculpture was hoisted to its permanent home atop the newly renovated Caswell Gallery.
Renowned sculptor Rip Caswell created the majestic edifice – which he dubbed “Challenge Accepted” – as the crown jewel for the 16,000-square-foot gallery he’s been renovating for nearly three years.
Using a crane three times taller than nearby buildings, the Bremik Construction crew gracefully hoisted the elk – attached with strategically wrapped orange straps – from the gallery’s parking lot to a specially designed platform tower in the middle of the roof. From lifting to bolting it down, the operation was completed in less than 10 minutes.
While grey skies and spring drizzle kept gawkers to a minimum, the symbolism of the moment was hardly lost on the artist himself.
“Today just feels like a major milestone. Like the icing on a cake,” Caswell said between sips of sparkling cider. “The artwork is a tangible reality of a dream coming true.”
His dream? A significant reimagining of the 100-year-old former potato warehouse that’s housed Caswell Gallery for years. As finishing touches are applied to the massive renovation, Caswell said he looks forward to moving out of the nearby storefront his studio has temporarily occupied into a one-of-a-kind showplace.
With 18-foot ceilings, the building’s bright, cavernous interior should provide ample space for Caswell’s deeply detailed bronze works. A mixture of modern and rustic styles, the gallery maintains the warmth and tone the artist ultimately chose in lieu of starting from the ground up.
“An old building like this, you keep running into more and more things,” he said. “There’s such character to it. The wood is 100 years old. It’s probably more cost effective to rebuild new.
“I always see the possibilities. I don’t calculate the work involved, or the money,” he observed. Of the many possibilities, Caswell could think of no better symbol for his investment than the mighty elk. “The elk, for North America, is the most regal animal. It’s just majestic,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a more beautiful animal in America than an elk.”
Brett Parry, co-owner of Bremik Construction, called the symbolism of “Challenge Accepted” and the benefits of an attractive gallery space key catalysts to a rejuvenated downtown. He anticipates the proposed Centennial Arch spanning the street near the gallery will neatly complement Caswell’s skyward elk.
“I thought the idea (of a roof sculpture) was fantastic,” he said. “Troutdale needs a critical mass of strong merchants, and Rip’s obviously one of those.”
From obtaining city permits to design and engineering challenges, mounting an elk to a building roof involved considerably more than the simple swing of a crane. Among obstacles Caswell had to overcome was obtaining approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for the elk’s towering figure. Some city officials, he explained, were concerned it might create a hazard for nearby Troutdale Airport.
Overall, though, he emphasized the support he’s received from the city and community members. “The city’s been wonderful, too,” he said. “I’ve felt a lot of support from the community.”
John and Jackie Wright of Boston, in town to visit their son in Troutdale, had wondered where the sculpted elk they saw several days ago would end up. Tuesday morning, they seemed pleased with the way their question was answered. “We would see it every day driving by,” said John Wright, noting he admired Caswell’s sculptures on previous visits. “We had no idea it was going to be on the roof.”
See the full article in The Outlook