Bison sculpture installed near Billings airport to honor former director

2014-07-26T00:15:00Z 2014-07-28T06:34:14Z Bison sculpture installed near Billings airport to honor former directorBy JACI WEBB jwebb@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

When Joliet sculptor Charlie Ringer says he’ll ride his newest creation, that’s no bull.

On Thursday morning at his Joliet studio, Ringer deftly climbed up the side of the bison, possibly his last chance to ride the bull before it was installed Friday morning near the Billings airport.

The steel bison is a bit bigger than Ringer originally planned, standing 10 feet high and measuring 24 feet long. It weighs 1,000 pounds. It looks bright orange because Ringer has been applying vinegar to the steel to rust it.

“It’s basically a cave drawing of a bison,” Ringer said.

The sculpture was commissioned by the Aviation and Transit Commission in 2013 as a way to honor Bruce Putnam, director of aviation and transit for the city of Billings for 27 years. Putnam died in October 2012 of cancer, but just a few weeks before he died, the commission agreed to support the project to install bison near the airport.

Putnam envisioned a string of bison sculptures that would stretch from the airport down to the city center and on to the Yellowstone River. The larger project is not part of the plan, but eventually the commission hopes to raise enough money by selling smaller bison sculptures made by Ringer to fund two additional bison at the airport. The commission is working with the Billings Community Foundation to collect money for the project.

Angela Babby, a Billings mosaic

artist, created a fused-glass mosaic of shades of red with a sun at the center as the heart-line of the large bison. The sculpture will be lit from two sides and landscaping will be placed around it. It sits outside between the roundabout and the Yellowstone County Museum. A public dedication ceremony is planned for Aug. 30.

The small bison sculptures are still available for $500. Ringer said 50 have been sold so far and others are available.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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