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Vermont’s new statue for top of Statehouse is taking shape

October 14, 2018
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In this Oct. 11, 2018 photograph, sculptor Chris Miller works on a wooden statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, at the Barre Granite Museum in Barre, Vt. The sculpture is expected to be installed on top of the Vermont Statehouse next month. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

BARRE, Vt. (AP) — A new sculpture of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, is taking shape and is expected to be installed on top of the Vermont Statehouse next month.

It will be the third Ceres statue to grace the top of the state capitol building. The last one, there for 80 years, was removed this spring over concerns that it was rotting and as part of a nearly $2 million project to renovate the Statehouse dome.

Sculptor Chris Miller estimates he’s spent about 1,000 hours so far crafting the new statue, including 600 hours carving the 14-foot (4 meter) piece out of mahogany wood.

“The old ones were pine and they lasted 80 years,” he said Thursday as he carved textured marks into the statue’s robe. Wood chips filled the floor below at the Barre Granite Museum, where the public can see him work. “This is a rot resistant wood and it should last quite a bit more.”

The last Ceres was created in 1938 by former Statehouse Sergeant-at-Arms Dwight Dwinell, who whittled the head while the Statehouse custodial staff carved the body. It was a “not-so-faithful copy” of the first statue, installed in 1859 when the Statehouse was built, Statehouse curator David Schultz has said.

“I am incredibly thrilled,” Schutz said of the new sculpture. “We’re going back to a figure now that is going to look a lot more like the original Larkin Mead sculpture that we started with,” Schutz said. “The one we’ve had the last 80 years has been more of a piece of folk art, not that I don’t love that statue, too, for all her charm.”

That statue is still being dried out and will be conserved, he said.

The dome renovation is nearly complete. The roof, after nearly 160 years, needed to have the leaks addressed, Schutz said.

“This is probably one of the oldest roofs in Vermont still in existence,” he said. A new layer of gold leaf was applied to the dome, which was also repainted. “We’re good to go, we hope, for another 40 to 60 years.”

The state hopes to install the statue, which will be painted white, by Nov. 14. That’s when Miller and sculptor Jerry Williams, who created a clay model of the statue, will be given the governor’s award for excellence in the arts.

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