BY SCOTT AUST
It's hard for Ryan Steel to describe his thoughts at seeing a three-year project finally become reality.
It's a combination of relief, pride and joy for the 17-year-old Garden City High School junior.
"It's kind of all of the above," Steel said of his Garden City Make It Beautiful project. "It feels pretty good to have an accomplishment like that. Now, as I've been driving by and looking at it, it gives me a proud feeling to be a part of it."
City workers on Friday were putting the finishing touches on an 8-foot by 14-foot entryway sign on south Main Street near the Peebles Complex that features a bronze sculpture that Steel was instrumental in raising money to build.
The sculpture features three, 4-foot by 4-foot bronze plates depicting in three-dimensional relief buffalo, trains and cattle — a trifecta of Garden City heritage.
Steel has been working on the project for about three years. It started as a way to help Steel earn his Eagle Scout award from the Boy Scouts of America.
"It didn't start out this big. It started as a smaller metal cutout. But as we got going, we kind of had a vision of bigger and better," he said.
As part of becoming an Eagle Scout, Steel had to do a project that benefited the city in some way, and it had to involve a certain number of hours devoted to community service. Steel went to Kaleb Kentner, community development director for the city, asking about potential projects. Kentner told Steel the city had a beautification plan that involved trying to add more art or items at the entryways that would make the city more attractive.
Steel took it from there.
After contacting the owner of a Utah bronze foundry, Mike Baer of Baer Bronze, Steel was put in contact with an artist, Mike Hall, who sculpted the molds and panels for the project.
Steel said his mother, who is also an artist, "pretty much had all the vision in this." He credits his mother with thinking bigger than the metal cutouts, as well as ideas for celebrating the city's past in the artwork.
"She had ideas, and then I put my ideas in and the artist put his ideas in," he said. "So we got what we got."
So far, Steel has raised $35,000 to $36,000 for the project, including contributions from the city of Garden City, the Finnup Foundation and donations from a multitude of local businesses and individuals. Steel also put on a 5-kilometer fun run two years ago as a fundraising event.
Steel said he will probably go to college when he graduates from high school, but he hasn't made any plans made about where he wants to go. Right now, Steel is thinking about optometry or going into a medical field, although nothing is set in stone.
Though the project is substantially complete, it still needs some work — and additional funds.
"We aren't there yet. We still have a little bit to go to help with some ideas that will make this even better for landscaping and stuff like that," he said.
Eventually, sidewalks and landscaping are planned. Donations may be sent to Steel at 1712 Grandview Drive East in Garden City.