Why are there so many bronze statues in Golden?

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A statue of a boy on a man's shoulders stands in downtown Golden, Colorado.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A statue stands in downtown Golden, Colorado, Oct. 30, 2019.

A stroll through downtown Golden offers the opportunity to explore an exceptional collection of Western art, including dozens of striking bronze sculptures scattered throughout the city.  

The diverse pieces all reflect the rich history, culture, and values of the community. 

"They have a lot to do with Golden's history — mining, cowboys, Native Americans — and also some of the other passions. We have animals in the collection," said Rick Souders, chair of the city's Public Art Commission.  

Asked about whether any golden retrievers appear in the collection, Souders said with a chuckle, "No golden retrievers yet. It's so funny that we have the Goldens in Golden every year, and we do get asked that question a lot.” 

He said an artist simply hadn't proposed a golden retriever statue — yet.

The curiosity piqued the interest of reader Jean Strieder and prompted her to write in to Colorado Wonders and ask: 

“The bronze statues around the town of Golden are so unique. What is their story?”

Souders explained the bronze statue collection has an interesting beginning, dating back to the 1990s when the Golden Civic Foundation began donating them to the city.

A bronze statue of a boy holding a newspaper up stands in Golden, Colorado.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The “Newsboy” statue in Golden holding a newspaper proclaiming “Truth” in its headline, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

"About 1996 was the first bronze piece that was purchased for the city," Souders said. "And then the city decided it wanted to become a little bit more formalized with its public art. So in 2013, mayor Jacob Smith organized the Public Art Commission."  

Today, there are 28 bronze statues on display as part of Golden's public art collection, which also includes pieces in various mediums like acrylic, stainless steel, murals, ceramics and stone sculptures.

Souders said the commission aims to continually expand the collection, noting, "Every year we get requests for more." A new bronze statue honoring local firefighters will soon be unveiled in front of the Golden fire station.

The Commission oversees the care and maintenance of the statues, and makes decisions about acquiring and displaying new works of art. Souders also highlighted a special funding source.  

"One of the unique things about the city of Golden is that we get to take a 1 percent of capital expenditure budgets that are based on public property …. And so anytime there is a refurbishing of those spaces, we get a percentage of that money back to the arts program in Golden," Souders said.

While many may simply appreciate the artwork's aesthetic appeal, Souders emphasized the cultural and economic importance of public art for Golden.  

"Art is such an important part of our culture as a civilization," he said. "Art promotes health, it promotes peace, it promotes stability. And certainly in the city of Golden, we look at that as an important factor."

The public art initiative aims to engage locals, especially children and families. But it also draws visitors and their tourism dollars to the city.

"A lot of people do come here to appreciate the art collection, and it brings a lot of funding into the city," Souders said. "So it's critically important from an economic vibrant standpoint and a health and wellness management standpoint."

The Public Arts Commission offers a downloadable brochure for visitors to use on self-guided tours of Golden's public art collection.