A couple of MHS heavyweights find new temporary homes during construction

"Symbol of the Pros” and “Herd Bull”
Posted at 5:59 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 12:58:33-04

HELENA — Light had barely begun to stretch out upon the Helena Valley Monday morning when crews began the work of moving a couple heavyweights at the Montana Historical Society (MHS).

“Symbol of the Pros” and “Herd Bull” are some of the most iconic pieces in the State’s care, both weighing over two tons.

In order to get ready for the construction of the Montana Heritage Center, the steel and bronze titans needed to move.

“The contractors are being very careful and we’re confident they’re doing a good job and that the sculptures will be safe in their temporary locations,” said MHS Curator of Collections Amanda Trum.

Crews first tackled “Herd Bull” by Sioux artists Benji Daniels.

Measuring 24 feet wide and 7 feet high, the sculpture was created in 1990 with the assistance of Billings artist James Hadcock.

“Benji Daniels had been scuba diving with some friends in the Missouri River and they had found a bunch of bison skulls at the bottom of the river. So that became the inspiration,” said Trum. “He actually used steel he found, the scrap metal steel, at the Cenex refinery in Laurel where he worked at the time. So he was able to use that to create the sculpture.”

There was some initial concern Monday morning the bolts of the horn may be welded to the sculpture. As it would turn out, they were just welded to washers which made dismantling the massive skull much easier.

After wrangling “Herd Bull” into place, crews made quick work of “Symbol of the Pros” by the late Browning Artist Bob Scriver.

One of his largest bronzes, the statue stands 17 feet tall and dramatically captures a saddle bronc rider mid-buck.

“He really has a breadth in his subject matter,” noted Trum.

Upon his passing, Scrivener’s wife donated the massive bronze along with more than 3,000 other pieces.

In addition to being one of the state’s most prolific sculptors, Scrivener was also a well respected taxidermist who prepared the remains of the white bison “Big Medicine” which is on display at MHS.

Now that the sculptures are out of the way, more dramatic construction will soon begin for the Montana Heritage Center.

New MHS Director Molly Kruckenberg said the moving of the statues signals the beginning of the evolution of MHS.

“I’ve been involved in the project from the very beginning, so to reach this point is amazing and exciting,” said Kruckenber. “It’s very fun as well, and I think this is going to be such a great project for the people of Montana.”

The two sculptures will remain on display publicly in their temporary locations while work is being done on the new Heritage Center.

Once construction is complete, “the plan is for “Herd Bull” to migrate back to its original home.

The final home of “Symbol of the Pros” is still being determined as it’s previous location will be part of the new building. MHS says wherever it ends up, it will remain on the campus in a place of prominence for people to enjoy.