Photo by Pat Farrington

The Tribune

Greg Campbell

With a chip here and a chip there, what was once a 15-ton obelisk of gold-veined white marble has slowly taken shape on Old Town Plaza at the hands of Zimbabwean sculptor Collen Nyanhongo.

And on Monday, the sculptor and his sponsor, The Tessa Foundation, will declare the resulting work of art completed.

At 2 p.m. the David Neenan family, whose family foundation funded the creation, will officially dedicate and name the sculpture. Ownership of the piece will be turned over to the city of Fort Collins. The public is invited to attend.

Throughout the summer, speculation about what the sculpture would be was the talk of the plaza. The sculptor never said, and overheard guesses ranged from an Olympic runner to a giant menorah.

Regardless of the interpretation, the sculpture has created the buzz it was meant to. It was not uncommon to hear Nyanhongo reply, “What do YOU think it is?” when asked what shape it was meant to take.

“A sculptor must leave room for the viewer to think about the message it carries,” he said in a release.

One of those messages was subtle and had nothing to do with art — as much as Nyanhongo’s sculpture was a lesson in the creation of fine art, it was also a tool of economic development. His presence on the plaza was a result of the Neenan’s collaboration with the Downtown Development Authority to stimulate redevelopment in the area.

The hope was that those who ventured downtown to watch the sculptor in action would stay and shop. The DDA is not displeased with the result.

“The value of having the sculpture in Old Town is significant on many fronts,” DDA President Jack Wolfe said in the release. “It drew considerable attention from both visitors and residents on a daily basis as Collen was engaged in bringing life to the marble.

“Unlike a single activity in Old Town, the sculpture was a center of attention for the entire summer and fall as families, students and downtown employees would make an effort to pass by the square and see art being created.”

Zimbabwean art is getting quite a good deal of exposure in northern Colorado. In addition to Nyanhongo’s work on Old Town Square, there are many works by Zimbabwean artists on display at Loveland’s Chapungu Sculpture Garden at The Promenade Shops at Centerra. There is also a Chapungu Gallery store at Centerra.

Similar artwork is on display at the Denver Botanic Gardens.