A wood sculpture honoring native people of the Rogue Valley will be moved from downtown Ashland to Southern Oregon University in mid-December.
Meanwhile, work continues on a bronze replica that will replace the sculpture, first installed where Lithia Way and Main Street merge north of the Plaza.
Local artist Jack Langford finished casting the last of 43 bronze sections of the sculpture during a celebration on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival campus.
The pieces will be welded together, ground down and polished to create a finished bronze piece for installation downtown.
The original wood sculpture will be moved to SOU's Hannon Library, said Ashland attorney Lloyd Haines. Back in 2006, Haines commissioned local artist Russell Beebe to create a sculpture out of the wood of an alder tree that was removed to make way for a building in downtown Ashland.
Haines and Beebe knew from the beginning that the wood was soft, but the outdoor sculpture deteriorated faster than expected from exposure to the elements, necessitating a new, sheltered location.
The totem pole-like sculpture features the likeness of local Takelma American Indian elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim, a child, fish, birds and animals.
The sculpture honors American Indian tribes that lived for generations in the Rogue Valley, but were forced more than 150 years ago to move to the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations in northwestern Oregon.
Many of the descendants of those tribes — including Baker Pilgrim — again call the Rogue Valley home.
Lloyd said he had hoped to have the bronze replica erected in downtown Ashland in December — the same time that the wood sculpture will move to SOU — but that will have to wait until early 2013.
Lloyd said he wants Baker Pilgrim to be on hand for the installation of the bronze statue. But she will be out of the country in December as part of her regular travels with the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.
This fall she is visiting Katmandu in Nepal and in December she will travel to New Zealand on behalf of the International Council, which works to promote peace and respect for the Earth and indigenous cultures.
Haines said the cost to replace the wood sculpture with a bronze replica has risen above his original estimate of $80,000, but he declined to specify the projected new cost.
He said another benefactor has commissioned Beebe to carve two benches for the SOU Hannon Library location. The benches will feature a bear and a cougar, complementing the 19-foot-tall "We Are Here" sculpture.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.