Phoenix sculpture rises from ashes of holiday farm fire
BLUE RIVER, Oregon – The vacation farm fire destroyed much of the McKenzie River Valley in September 2020, setting homes and businesses on fire. He left piles of rubble consisting of burnt metal and ashes.
For many residents, there was nothing left in the destruction that would be useful from a distance.
However, local organizations came together and decided to use parts of what was left to create something new.
“How can we create a lasting memory in this community? Sarah Koski said with Love for Lane County.
Love for Lane County, along with the Eugene Arts and Business Alliance, reunited with Jud Turner, a metal sculptor in Eugene.
Turner grew up traveling with his family to the McKenzie River area and remembers her beauty before the fire.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see how many people have lost and how sunk most of them are,” Turner said. “There is no real way to emotionally prepare for what you are going to see.”
Turner made several trips to the McKenzie River Valley earlier in 2021 to stock up on materials from burnt down homes and businesses, with all coins donated by members of the community.
“Some of the pieces were decorative, patio furniture or patio tables,” Turner said. “Other times I couldn’t even tell what it was, things were so badly burnt.”
For months, Turner worked to create a Phoenix, a mythological bird known to rise from its ashes. It is about 14 feet tall and is called Viribus, which means “strength” in Latin.
In the center of the Phoenix is a McKenzie River water vessel, something Turner made sure to add.
“The water from the McKenzie River is in a vessel in the heart of Phoenix because it’s the heart of the community. I really wanted that to be included. Water is the opposite of fire,” said Turner.
On August 26, Turner finally brought the sculpture to his final resting place in the town of Blue River.
It is right across from Melanie Stanley’s home and business. Both were destroyed in the fire.
Stanley said this sculpture is both a tribute to their past and to the future, as the pieces are made both by residents who will rebuild and by those who have decided not to return.
“Because of this fire, we have lost a lot of families who were our older families who have been here for generations. The older sections of them are not coming home. They cannot stand the process of reconstruction, ”Stanley said.
Stanley is considered the unofficial mayor of Blue River, so she won’t be leaving the area anytime soon. She was also keen to donate to the sculpture itself, not using her own materials, but rather those of her late mother.
“It was really important for me to have that piece in there because I knew it would be in Blue River, I just didn’t know where,” Stanley said. “This city was everything to her.”
Now that means even more to have it right across the street.
“I’m super excited because I can see it everyday. She will be forever remembered in this sculpture.”
The Phoenix now watches over not only her, but the entire city. It is a symbol of rebirth for a region that has lost so much.
It’s a way for residents to imagine what the road will be like ahead, a way that doesn’t feel so intimidating when you have a bird’s eye view.
“We’re going to get up,” Stanley said. “Our community is stronger than it thinks.”