It took more than a year and some work by the artist, but a new version of Northglenn’s popular bronze sculpture “Bee My Honey” is back in its spot, at the Washington Street entrance to Grant Park.
“I can tell you that even as recently as July, I’ve been getting emails and phone calls from residents wondering what was going on with the bear,” said Michael Stricker, Northglenn’s cultural programs supervisor. “When this happened, more than a year ago, we did get a lot of buzz about it.”
The sculpture was a part of the city’s annual Art on Parade program and was popular enough with residents that the city purchased it and made it a permanent part of the collection in 2012. It sat at the Washington Street entrance of the park until the Spring of 2019.
Northglenn Police said witness last saw the original sculpture in its place along the walking path just east of Washington Street on April 26, 2019. It was noticed missing the following Monday, April 29. It featured two pieces, a 200 pound bronze bear cub and the 800 pound tree and beehive the bear is reaching towards.
Stricker said the police checked with foundries across the state and did what they could to find it, but didn’t have any luck.
“We made sure the word got out there,” Stricker said. “There wouldn’t be that much value in it for the bronze, and its value as a sculpture was pretty well known once to showed up somewhere. That’s why, my feeling is, I don’t think it was sold as a sculpture. I think it was melted down or it’s stuck in someone’s backyard now, unfortunately.”
Instead, the city went back to artist Colette Pitcher to see what she could do.
“She lives right up in Greeley, she’s still a prolific sculptor and I gave her a call and she said ‘Yeah, let’s do this,’” Stricker said.
She began working on it a year ago, managing to replicate the piece from other similar work she’d done, photos and memory.
Part of the problem grew out of her casting process she sculpts the original piece from clay, then makes a silicon gel mold backed by fiberglass, called the mother mold. That’s used to first make a wax mold.
“The wax gets cut up and the pieces are dipped in a slurry and in silica —silica being sand, basically,” she said. “It’s like battering chicken for frying — you go egg, then batter, then egg then batter.”
Those silica pieces are fired to create a kind ceramic, with the wax melting away. Melted metal is poured into the ceramic shell, which is chipped off and the metal pieces are welded together to make the final piece.
Pitcher said she only had the rubber and fiberglass mother mold left from the original piece, and that had degrade to the point it wasn’t usable.
“Our mold had gone bad, so we had to start over completely,” she said.
She’s glad it’s back in its spot. She enjoyed making the piece, and said it’s simply fun and friendly.
“I make pieces sometimes that have messages but this was a fun thing,” she said. “ The bear is cute and not threatening at all. He’s not a real bear, with just a little bit of Disney in him. And I always think of things as I move around, so there are always things to find and discover as you move around.”
The original piece was valued at $21,000, just one portion of the city’s public art portfolio that’s been collecting since 2000. Sticker said the entire portfolio is valued at about $600,000. The new version cost the city $25,000.
Stricker said the city has taken precautions to make sure the sculpture stays put this time.
“We made sure it’s on that same location, which is great because it gets all that traffic on the path along the canal and on Washington Street,” Stricker said.