Look out! There’s a 6,000-pound grizzly bear — Ursa Ravus — looming 15 skyward at 635 East Colorado Avenue. The Gluckstern family commissioned Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson Art of Hayward, California, to build and install the original sculpture, the first sanctioned public art installation in Telluride.
It took self-taught artists Lisa and Robert Ferguson four months to build Ursa Ravus whose “fur” is comprised of over 187,000 pennies.
“Each penny is unique, each has a story,” said the artists in their application to Telluride own council’s Public Art Commission (PAC). “They are pleasant to draw fingers over. They make a sound. They may even feel warm in the afternoon sun.”
The artists describe Ursa Ravus as a “grizzly bear reaching up to a tree for fruit; a metaphor about ambition, reaching to the sky above to the constellations of Ursa Major and Minor, the big and little bears.”
Recognizing a dearth of public art in Telluride, Steven and Judy Gluckstern wanted to donate artwork that the public could access and enjoy. Longtime patrons of local culture, the Glucksterns moved to Telluride in 1980 so that Steven could serve as the school district’s superintendent for a year. Together with Wendy Brooks, Steven founded Telluride Academy and he and Judy were important contributors to the Michael D. Palm Theater in honor of their late friend.
The initial idea for the bear sculpture came from the Gluckstern’s annual family pilgrimage to the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada where Judy and Steven are known as Mama Bear and Papa Bear.
In 2016 there were 250 pieces of art strewn across the desert — some little, some gigantic — most made of wood to be burned. Among the artwork was the Ferguson’s first bear sculpture — not Ursa Ravus, but her original twin, Ursa Major.
“We’re so used to all the digital stuff but this was just a bear, made of pennies,” recalled Judy. “And people…
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