Good Question: Who is that guy on Memorial Drive?
This week’s Good Question was inspired by a walk I took with my kids along the Greenbelt Riverwalk in Idaho Falls. We got to this statue and my 4-year-old daughter asked, “Who is that?”
“I don’t know,” I said in reply. “Good question.”
I looked at the plaque below for the answer. Nada.
I started by asking my co-workers who they thought it was.
Ronda Hobbs, our Special Projects Director, said, “I think it’s Jim Bridger.” No one else ventured a guess.
This leads to the next obvious question, “Who is Jim Bridger?” According to encyclopedia.com, Bridger is the fur trader credited with discovering the Great Salt Lake.
Now I needed to find out if this was the identity of the man depicted in the statue.
I did some research on Roy Reynolds, the man credited in the plaque with sculpting the statue. Reynold’s work was featured in an art show at the Willard Arts Center in November 2016. A press release for that event states, “In 2000 he (Reynolds) won the commission for a bronze sculpture on the Idaho Falls Greenbelt. The Fur Trader stands on Memorial Drive in downtown Idaho Falls, depicting one of the men who paved the way for Lewis and Clark.”
I reached out to him and he confirmed it is not Jim Bridger. He told me the statue does not portray any particular individual.
“It’s a symbol of the early fur traders who came here. Most of them were of Scottish-Irish descent,” he says.
It is worth noting Reynold’s sculpture took an entire year to complete. He was one of four or five applicants who entered a contest hosted by the Idaho Falls Rotary Club.
Reynolds’ work also was showcased at Idaho State University in 2014. According to that press release, Reynolds grew up in Idaho Falls. He learned to paint at age 3 at the kitchen table. After college, he worked as the art director for singer/songwriter Carole King for a short time, before beginning a 25-year career with the Idaho National Laboratory.
“What I like about painting is the surprises that happen. Lots of times I struggle, but at other times, I’m pleasantly surprised at what happens. Those magical moments are what keep me painting,” Reynolds told ISU.
Reynold’s art will be on display at an art show beginning Oct. 20. It’s happening from 4to 8 pm at 737 South Capital in downtown Idaho Falls.