Art and Responsibility: Sculptor Gary Price’s Philosophy Comes to Life in Bronze

On the edge of Springville, towards the north end of Main Street, there’s a nondescript warehouse tucked behind a row of businesses and industrial work yards. There are no large signs pointing the way, or really any indication of what goes on inside. The only clue that something special or interesting goes on there is the row of bronze statues that line the road leading up to the otherwise unremarkable building.

This is the studio of Gary Price, and it’s his work that lines the road. For more than 30 years, Price’s bronze sculptures have been celebrated and collected worldwide, and it’s no real surprise that they’re especially prevalent in Utah Valley. Anyone who has spent any time along the Wasatch Corridor has probably seen one of his works, as many of them populate libraries and government buildings, parks, and of course, museums. 

Right now, Price and the other members of his studio have two major projects that they’re actively fundraising for. The first is probably the best known, as it has received a fair amount of news coverage. The Statue of Responsibility is an evocative work, showing two hands clasped, one reaching down, the other reaching up, representing the responsibility that Price believes people have for one another—to lift and support.

“When asked how to visually depict responsibility, I knew it needed to be tall,” Price said. “What’s cool, is that with the hand reaching up and a hand reaching down, it’s a right and a left hand, which to me represents being all inclusive, which is what it’s all about.”

The piece seems to be a magnum opus of sorts, the culmination of so much of Price’s philosophy and previous work, even recalling one of his first major pieces called, The Ascent, which depicts two American Indians scaling a wall, one reaching down to help the other continue the climb.

The Statue of Responsibility has had a long journey, with the first iteration being unveiled at Utah Valley University in April 2015. At that event, Price explained that inspiration for the statue came from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning.”

“Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness,” wrote Frankl. “In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

Originally commissioned in 1997 by the statue’s foundation, Price met with Frankl’s widow, Elly Frankl, to get her blessing for the sculpture. This eventually led to the 15-foot sculpture at UVU, which was a prototype for the foundation’s actual goal: a 300-foot-tall, stainless-steel monument on the West Coast to serve as a bookend for the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast.

This project seems to be becoming more of a reality, as Utah Governor Spencer Cox has endorsed the mission of the foundation and early plans have been made for the 300-foot sculpture to find a home at the Point of the Mountain.

Price’s other major ongoing project is a collaboration with the Timpanogos Nation Council to design a monument honoring the Timpanogos people. Currently, the planned monument will feature a 25-foot-tall statue titled, A New Day depicting the Timpanogos Chief Wakara (also known as Walkara in some places), which will likely be placed in Spanish Fork. Other cities along the Wasatch Front have also committed to smaller monuments, with a 7-foot tall version of the sculpture.

“The Chief Wakara project is about transparency and telling the whole story,” Price said. “There’s a history that needs to be told, and my goal with this project is to be able to do that.” 

The process for all these pieces is an arduous one, and Price employs a variety of artisans who help produce the sculptures in Price’s Springville studio. Rubber molds are made of Price’s original clay sculptures, and wax positives are then cast from those molds. Once set, the wax sculptures are covered in layers of plaster in a days-long process that requires the piece to be coated again and again. Once prepared, the wax is melted out of the plaster cast and then filled with bronze, heated to nearly 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once a week, at Price’s studio, molten bronze is poured into the plaster casts. Once they’re cooled, the pieces are cleaned and, when necessary, pieced together are prepared for sale or installation.

Price’s work is widely known for its celebration of the human spirit, nature, and the profound moments of life. As an artist and sculptor, he has carved a niche for himself with his distinctive bronze sculptures and has consistently demonstrated an exceptional ability to capture the essence of his subjects, translating emotions and timeless moments into bronze. From the tiny foundry, tucked away just off Main Street, Price’s sculptures are sent around the world, which he hopes will inspire, tell stories, and help people be their best selves.

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