Ore to Oar is a Mineral County Historical Art project spearheaded by Emily Ornelas, which will result in a statue gracing the front lawn of the courthouse in Superior. The artist, Dennis Althoff, along with Ornelas had a booth at the Mineral County Fair in early August to show the work that has been done so far, as well as to help collect donations for the project.
The hope is to raise $30,000 with $6,300 collected to date. The 16-foot high metal statue will depict a tree trunk with a saw blade on top, which will greet visitors. Included on the statue will be a logging chain and elk skull along with railroad ties, a mining car and fish.
Althoff, dressed in blue jeans and wearing an old cowboy hat, sawed timber for 37 years and is now retired. He has lived in Superior for nearly 30 years and has always been an artist, and has worked with paint, pencil and leather. Four years ago, he started working with scrap metal and found his true passion. Now his work is featured in local galleries, including Four Ravens in downtown Missoula, and at the Ninepipes Gallery near Charlo. Last year, he even sold a popular horse head made of steel with metal chains for its mane at the Charlie Russell museum benefit sale in Great Falls.
The Superior statue is the biggest project he has ever worked on and had already completed several pieces. That includes a large saw blade rescued from an old mill from Tarkio with “Superior Montana” written with scrap metal from an old steel tank. “It gives the letters a lot of texture. They are pitted and rusty,” Althoff said.
At the booth there was also a buffalo skull made from various scrap metals, which will not be on the final statue but he wanted to put it on display, “to show people that I can do this,” he said with a grin over his bushy white mustache.
“He has such a gift, I wanted to share it and help preserve our history,” said Ornelas about the project. “We hope to attract people to town and share the history about the hardworking individuals who made this area into what it is.”
She and her husband moved to Superior over 20 years ago, and it took her a long time to understand where the roots of the county came from. The vision of the statue is to depict the history and possibly include some historical signs about the area.
The monument will be set in the middle of brick pavers somewhere on the courthouse front lawn. The exact location has yet to be determined. People can buy a brick for $100, and it will be engraved with whatever the donor would like including individuals names, business names, saying or logos. The statue itself will be portable rather than cemented into the ground, just in case it ever needs to be moved. The base will have rock work over a hollow metal frame.
The hope is to raise the bulk of the funds needed through local donations to keep the project community involved with the bricks representing individuals and businesses. However, grant funding may be solicited, if necessary. Ornelas said that if for any reason the project falls through and it not completed, all donations will be refunded. People can call her at 406-822-4309, or Dennis Christensen at 406-649-2000 to donate or for more information.