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Its Bearly About bears

by: Sam Bennett, 
A sculpture in front of the Lake Oswego Public Library was such a hit that the sculptor offered to slash the price so it can stay in the city’s collection.

The donation box for the 'Bearly About' sculpture at the Lake Oswego Public Library in First Addition has been converted into a thank-you box.

'Hooray! Artist Steve Tyree has donated the bears,' says a sign above the thank-you box.

Last week, the Lawrence Gallery in Southwest Portland announced Tyree, a sculptor, will give the sculpture to the city at a price far below the asking price of $12,400. He will sell it for about $2,000.

The bronze sculpture, an adult bear and two cubs, was installed at the library on July 10.

The sculpture was one of 20 in the 2007 Gallery Without Walls program, the outdoor sculpture program administered by the Lake Oswego Foundation for the Arts. Each piece in the gallery is on loan for two years, culminating in a community vote, called the People's Choice Award, for the sculpture that the city will purchase to add to its permanent collection.

The next People's Choice Award is scheduled for April, and the winner will be announced in May.

But the 'Bearly About' sculpture was such a hit that library patrons, primarily children, began a collection box at the library to commit funds to ensure the purchase - with or without a nod from the voting public.

An anonymous donor kicked-off the fundraising effort with a pledge of $1,200 toward the purchase of the sculpture. Other donations have pushed the total amount to more than $2,000.

Tyree, who attended the opening of the 2007 Gallery Without Walls, said 'the spirit of the children starting the change box touched me deeply. Through their love of the sculpture, they were moved to accomplish something great.'

'The city is extremely grateful for Mr. Tyree's generous gesture,' said Ellie McPeak, Lake Oswego City Council president. 'I was pleased that citizens were captivated with the sculpture and had made amazing grassroots progress toward its purchase. Having the artist follow through with this kindness is very moving.'

Tyree was born in Modesto, Calif., and began to sculpt in 1974. According to Tyree, his goal in creating 'Bearly About' was to 'take people to the times they have seen bears and to that excitement for these great creatures.'

The notes in the thank-you box are from art lovers of all ages. One note simply says 'Thank you. Annie.'