The story behind the new Penrose statues
Four large statues have graced the Norris-Penrose Event Center this summer.
Three of these are in plain view to the public, in front of the entry facility that opened last spring at the east end of Penrose Stadium. The fourth is on the second floor of the facility, in an area that is available for group rentals.
Perhaps the most striking of the outdoor works is the bronco rider, a piece about 10 feet high by Arizona artist T.D. Kelsey in which the cowboy is celebrating the high point of a wild ride, waving his hat in the air while his mount tries with powerful determination to throw him off.
“There's no front to it,” said Event Center manager Bill Miller, noting that equipment and anatomical details are clear and accurate on all sides of the statue. “You walk around it and it just grabs you.”
Also in front are life-size statues of Spencer Penrose, an early-20th century Colorado Springs millionaire and benefactor for whom Penrose Stadium was named; and Bob Norris, the region's largest rancher, whose significant donation allowed the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation last year to take over ownership of the center (formerly called the Penrose Equestrian Center).
Norris also lent the facility the bronco statue and the somewhat smaller second-floor piece. The latter, created by a Texas artist, depicts a working cowboy on a horse. It is located near the entrance to a patio that provides a view to the east.
Of the Kelsey statue, Norris said in a recent interview that he saw it at a cowboy artist auction in Pheonix, Ariz., last year. “I walked in and it was the biggest thing in the show,” he said. “I just liked it, so I got a wild hair and tied into it.”
Initially, he didn't have a plan for his new work of art. “I played with the idea at putting it on my [T-Cross Ranches & Norris Cattle Co.] ranch,” he said, but he decided against it. One of the ranch's business goals is to sell quarter horses, “so a statue of a bucking horse would be negative advertising,” Norris pointed out, dryly.
Eventually, he hit on the the idea that came to pass. “I thought it would be a natural for the rodeo,” he said. “That way more people can enjoy it. I think it's a good spot for it.”
Located on about 60 acres off Rio Grande Street, the Event Center includes the stadium, as well as a large indoor arena, trails, stables and other riding facilities.
About 20 feet away from the bronco rider are the bronzes of Penrose and Norris. The Penrose piece was from a mold made in 1957, according to Miller.
Norris' bronze, showing him dressed for ranch work, was recently created by an Arizona artist named Bill Nebecker. “He did a heckuva job,” Norris said. “You can read my belt buckle, the zipper on my jacket is right, it's a fine piece of art.”
The Rodeo Foundation had the idea of putting the Norris statue in front of the entry faciliy. Norris was not too crazy about the idea; however, he added with a chuckle, thanks to Kelsey's bronco rider being so near at hand, “the pigeons won't [defecate] all over me.”
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