THERE was a moment a few years ago, in 2018, when famed wildlife artist Jocelyn Russell was presenting her latest masterpiece, Secretariat, to an audience at Society Hall when the collective energy in the room thought “Alamosa should have one of her sculptures on public display.”
It would be a great way, people thought, to claim Jocelyn as one of Alamosa’s own because she is – an Alamosa original or “Sis” as her dad affectionately called her – who made it big in the art world and remains tied to her Valley roots through family and friends.
“After we started talking about it, we said, ‘You know what? We should do it.’ So we started talking to Jocelyn and it started from there,” said Mary Russell, Jocelyn’s sister-in-law, as she tells the story of a community effort to honor a native daughter.
Alamosa Woman’s Citizenship Club
MARY Russell is part of the Woman’s Citizenship Club of Alamosa, and those 20 club members have been working with the city of Alamosa, the Alamosa County Tourism and Marketing board, and Jocelyn herself to install a monument depicting Sandhill Cranes for public display in Alamosa
Jocelyn has named the project “Cranes in Flight.” Here’s a short video clip of it.
The timing of the project lined up with a decision by the local marketing board to tear down the deteriorating “Motorway” building, which sits off 6th Street near Hunt Avenue adjacent to the Colorado Welcome Center parking lot.
The building is scheduled to come down in mid-December. The property then undergoes landscaping and a remake as public parking, with the Jocelyn Russell art piece set to be a showcase exhibit for the community and traveling public.
“We wanted a place where people could pull in and park, and get out and walk around. We wanted it to be not just something driving by that you see,” Russell said.
The city’s ongoing effort to improve the aesthetics of the Sixth Street/US Highway 160 stretch through Alamosa, and its plan to focus Hunt Avenue as a pathway that can lead you from the Cranes in Flight monument to Cole Park gets a boost through the project.
How to contribute to Cranes in Flight
FOR the artist, who grew up drawing all the wildlife she saw in the San Luis Valley, it only made sense that she would sculpt the Sandhill Cranes as her contribution to her hometown.
“That was a big thing for her,” Mary Russell said. “Wildlife was her first love. Her first monument was the elk. She’s done so many monuments and she really has a love of wildlife, and she loves the Valley. She loves birds.”
Jocelyn Russell has been recognized nationally for her sculptures and paintings. She specializes in animals, wildlife and domestic. She has completed more than 50 bronze monument commissions, her most recent being a monument in honor of famed race horse Secretariat. She also sculpted five life-size elephants and five life-size lions for Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. She is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and serves on the board, and has teamed with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Ducks Unlimited and other conservation organizations.
Cranes in Flight will consist of two life-and-a-half-sized Sandhill Cranes in flight with 8-foot-plus wingspans. Russell is contributing her design and sculpting time to the project. She is also creating maquettes, or small sculptures, that will be given to high-dollar donors as part of Woman’s Citizenship Club’s efforts to raise money to support foundry and other installation costs.
Donors to the project will have their names engraved on the monument, which is expected to be completed by 2023. Donations can be mailed to the Woman’s Citizenship Club, P.O. Box 1182, Alamosa, CO 81101. For more information contact Mary Russell at 719-580-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.