‘He was bigger than life’: David Govedare, sculptor of Bloomsday runner statues in Riverfront Park, dies

David Govedare, the sculptor of Bloomsday Runner Statues in Riverfront Park as well as many other works seen across the country, died Wednesday. He was 71.

Governors died of health problems Wednesday morning at the hospital, said local musician Cary Fly, Governors’ close friend and frequent collaborator. He is survived by his only son, Forest.

“He was bigger than life. A Hemingway-like figure,” Fly said. “He was huge inside and out and had so much love and all that inside of him. … He embraced life in a way that no one else could do because his scope was so great.

“It’s a big hole,” he added. “It’s something we’re all trying to deal with.”

The life-size fleet of metal runners that make up Govedare’s 1984 work “The Joy of Running Together” may be “one of the most successful public works of art in our region,” said Karen Mobley, a local visual artist and public art consultant. .

“It remembers something that is really important to many and many people,” Mobley said, “but it is also in a way taken on its own life, where people use it as a way to interact and engage with the sculpture around things other than Bloomsday. “

Pieces from the artist’s portfolio can be found on the outside of walls and standing in front of several colleges across the state.

Govedare’s more famous works include the 2002 work “The Guardians of the Lake,” on which he worked with Keith Powell. The 25-foot, 800-pound metal feathers were installed in the Northwest Boulevard median of the Coeur d’Alene in May 2002.

With his earlier 1989 work called “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies,” 15 metal horses appear to be galloping along a ridge overlooking Interstate 90 in central Washington across the Columbia River. “Grandpa cuts the ponies loose” is unfinished: Govedare’s concept also called for the horses to look spilled from a 25,000 pound, 36 foot diameter steel basket.

Fly said he hopes to see the sculpture, which has faced funding challenges, be completed one day.

“Of course he has small models of (the basket),” he said, “and he has all the dimensions and all the instructions on how to build it, right at the hand of the one who does it. Maybe his son; he taught his son, how to do it. “

Outside the Pacific Northwest, Govedare made the 1997 “Phoenix Fountain” sculpture located outside the Doyle Convention Center in Texas City, Texas. Another in Texas City called “Somewhere On The Trail,” which depicts the silhouette of a mounted Native American gesturing toward the sky, was unveiled in 1999 in Bay Street Park.

Mobley, who has worked on a couple of projects with Govedare over the years, said much of his art is inventive – seen from his use of found materials – and reflects his interests in indigenous societies, the human form and gesture.

“I doubt there is hardly a person who has ridden from here to Seattle who is not familiar with his horses that are on that ridge up over the Vantage Bridge,” she said. “David is an iconic guy in terms of his work, but he’s also a loved one.”

California-born Govedare first came to the Spokane area to get an internship with an architect during Expo ’74. At the time, he was an architecture student at the California Polytechnic Institute.

Fly said the two met in the early ’70s at the former Goofy’s Tavern, where Fly was playing a show. Fly said he and Govedare grew “closer than brotherhood” from then on; Govedare designed covers for Fly’s six albums, while Fly wrote music for his sculptures.

“My God, what a genius,” said Fly. “Just a fabulous artist and an extraordinary human being.”

Mobley described Govedare as “a fabulous dancer” and said he was always seen at blues music festivals and the like, where he was “the life of the party.”

“He just had tremendous energy for it, especially when he was a little bit younger,” she said.

Fly said he plans to start a fundraising site to raise money to help preserve Govedare’s ranch in Chewelah, which is partly occupied by the artist’s studio.

“His legacy will no doubt live on,” Fly said. “He put himself in all his works of art, and he put himself into all his interpersonal relationships and did it better than anyone could. Shakespeare would have a hard time describing his greatness.”

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