In the graven images file, Spearfish finally has its long-awaited bronze Jesus. It’s not the towering Rio duplicate some may have hoped for, just a nice 15-foot shepherd waving to pilgrims at the new Passion Play museum in Spearfish, forged in part by descendants of the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse sculptors:
“It was so important that there be a public recognition of the history of the Passion Play, which played such a major part in the development of Spearfish and the entire Black Hills tourism industry,” said Johanna Meier Della Vecchia, the daughter of Josef Meier, the man who brought the Passion Play to Spearfish, during a ceremony Saturday dedicating the new Black Hills Passion Play Museum.
…In addition to the museum, Meier Della Vecchia also unveiled the completed statue, “Christ on the Mountain,” as a standing testimony to the enduring legacy of the Passion Play.
Meier Della Vecchia said she commissioned the completion of the statute around four years ago. With the help of Lincoln’s son Jim Borglum, as well as Monique Ziolkowski, Korczak Ziolkowski’s daughter. Korczak Ziolkowski was a collaborator of Gutzon Borglums’ who worked with him on the construction of Mt. Rushmore but gained notoriety for his own monumental work designing and beginning work on the Crazy Horse memorial.
The finished statute was cast in bronze by Brett Chomer, a metalwork artist from Santa Fe, N.M. Chomer took the full-scale bust originally sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and the small-scale model of the completed figure designed by Lincoln Borglum, and with the help of Jim Borglum and Monique Ziolkowski fine-tuning the features and details, sculpted the approximately 15-foot model that would be used to cast the statue [Alex Portal, “Long-Awaited Christ Statue Comes to Spearfish,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2021.08.17].
The museum is open weekdays from 2 to 4 p.m., but the driveway and grounds are open to the public every day from dawn to dusk, so you can drive, bike, or hike up for a selfie with Big J any daylight time you’d like. The museum is at 421 Meier Avenue, just south of Brady Park beside Spearfish Creek, one of the prettiest places in the world.