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Grizzly roundabout shapes up

by: Photo By Gary Lindberg - Artist Chris Folsom, of Bend, steadies a 5,220-pound mother grizzly bear on Monday at the J Street and Grizzly Road roundabout. Three cubs join the mother bear at the intersection.


   Nearly 10,000 pounds of grizzly bears were installed this week in the center of Madras' first roundabout, at the intersection of J Street, Grizzly Road, and City View, on the east side of Madras.
   Artist Chris Folsom, 54, of Bend, brought the city's first, large-scale public art to the site Monday, on a flatbed truck and a flatbed trailer, accompanied by a crane truck to lift the steel artwork into place.
   The family of bears, which Folsom made from scrap metal, includes a 25-foot mother grizzly, facing J Street and Mount Jefferson, and three cubs -- a 12-foot bear facing north on Grizzly, an 8-foot bear leaning against a rock, and a 6-foot bear on all four legs, facing City View.
   "Each one is positioned to see people as they come off the roundabout," Folsom noted.
   Footings for the massive bears were engineered and put into place by ZCS Engineering of Bend, according to Folsom, who worked to weld three of the bears into place on Monday. The fourth was expected to be installed today.
   The mother bear weighs 5,220 pounds, and the smaller bears, about 1,500 pounds each.
   A figurative artist who specializes in sculpting the female form in stone, Folsom was commissioned by a Bend resident to create a bear from metal last year. He had successfully created an 11-foot tall, 20-foot long metal sculpture for the man's yard, when Folsom learned that the Madras Public Art Commission was searching for an artist to create roundabout artwork.
   "They wanted a model; instead, I created a mother bear head," he said. The head, as well as models submitted by other artists, was displayed last year at the Jefferson County Library.
   The grizzly bear idea -- for Grizzly Road -- won the support of the public, and the art commission announced its selection in November of 2006.
   "After I made the heads, and got the commission, I had to figure out the proportions," explained Folsom, who built a metal frame on a 2,000-pound turntable so he could get started.
   Since then, he has welded pieces of new and old scrap metal together to create the bears, which have a weathered appearance.
   "Rust is the natural patina we want," he said.
   The most difficult part of creating the bear sculptures was trying to determine if the proportions were right, he said. "The eye never lies."
   Folsom, who has lived in Bend for the past eight years, exhibits his work in a gallery called 135 Up, above the Book Barn on Minnesota Street in Bend.
   "I've been lucky the past two years," he said. "I've been making a living with my art."
   Thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Madras Land Development Co., the Madras Public Art Commission was able to secure Folsom's work for the first roundabout, and a second sculpture, of a red-tail hawk, by artist Miles Pepper, of Pullman, Wash., for the City View and E Street roundabout. That sculpture is expected to be installed in the fall.
   The MLDC, which is developing the master-planned community of Yarrow, is a partnership among Taylor Northwest, Brooks Resources, and Jeld-Wen. The 900-acre development will feature about 1,700 single-family homes, and 200 multi-family units, as well as a golf course, trails and open space, and a mixed-use area.
   "Brooks Resources has seen the positive effects of art in other communities," said Craig. "It instills a lot of pride in the community when you put art up."
   Melanie Widmer, city councilor and member of the Madras Public Art Commission which selected the work, was on hand for the installation, and agreed with Craig.
   "It's an exciting thing for Madras, to elevate the community above our basic necessities and to be able to have something here that's just here for the sake of being beautiful," said Widmer.