Eight years ago, students led the charge to name Milo, a Canada lynx, as CU Denver’s official mascot. The welcoming of the feline friend, with its distinctive grin, bright green eyes, and bedazzling dance moves, was an effort to create campus unity, and to give the university an identity of its own.
This week, a larger-than-life sculpture that depicts the Canada lynx has come to life. Currently on display in the Emmanuel Art Gallery, a historic studio located south of the Tivoli Student Union, the Lynx statue is a public work of art that will bring distinctive identity and visual pride to the CU Denver community.
“Our Lynx mascot is unique in that it truly came from the initiative and creativity of our students,” said Chancellor Michelle Marks. “Having this permanent sculpture in one of the most-visited areas of campus will symbolize the impact of our students and the strength of our community.”
The sculpture was created by Dan Ostermiller, a beloved bronze sculptor who is considered fundamental to the artistic spirit of Colorado. Capturing wildlife in an exaggerated, surreal style, Ostermiller is known by many for his work Scottish Angus Cow and Calf, which is seen on the grounds of the Denver Art Museum. At five tons, the work is one of the best-known public art installations in the state.
“Dan’s uncanny ability to imbue his subjects with personality, grace, and presence gives the viewer meaningful insights into the identity of CU Denver,” said Jeff Lambson, director of the Emmanuel Art Gallery. “This Lynx will become a powerful symbol of our incredible students and campus.”
Bringing CU Denver’s First Mascot to Life
The idea of CU Denver’s own mascot had floated around CU Denver for years before Ronson Fox, then-Student Government Association president, and Natalia Gayou, former chair of SGA events and planning, decided to put the vision into action. What followed were months of meetings, focus groups, surveys, votes by students, faculty, staff and alumni, more focus groups, more discussion, and ultimately the vote to name the Canada lynx as CU Denver’s official mascot animal. The wild cat disappeared from Colorado in about 1973 but was reintroduced into the state in 1999.
Today, Milo the Lynx mascot is somewhat of a celebrity on campus, making appearances at many events and keeping up a strong social media following. Its playful persona is always on the move.
The bronze Lynx statue, however, will serve as a permanent, bold symbol of CU Denver’s community and pride—and it will be placed strategically in the heart of the CU Denver neighborhood on the Auraria campus. On Sept. 21, the sculpture will be installed in the popular courtyard area between Student Commons and the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, across 12th Street from City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons. In October, the courtyard will officially be named “Benson Terrace” in recognition of former CU President Bruce Benson and First Lady Marcy Benson and their service to the university.
Wild Life Exhibit
To honor the arrival of the Lynx statue on campus, the Emmanuel Art Gallery will display a retrospective of Ostermiller’s storied fifty-year career. The exhibition, Wild Life, opened on Monday, Aug. 23, and will be the first chance to view the monolithic Lynx before it moves to the Benson Terrace in late September.
Wild Life features 28 bronze-cast sculptures, including the stately Lynx. Additionally, pigs, rabbits, bison, and other creatures–– in forms that capture the playful and visceral essence of animals––will equal multiple tons of metal on display within the walls of the historic Emmanuel Art Gallery.
“When I visited the CU Denver campus, I knew exactly how I wanted to interpret the lynx mascot,” said Ostermiller. “I wanted this work to instill pride and a sense of belonging to a special place– and I think [this sculpture] does just that.”
Look ahead for a CU Denver News story in mid-September on the alumni behind the idea of the Lynx statue, how CU Denver selected the artist, and more information about the artist’s vision.