Friday, December 03, 2004

Auction of bighorn sculptures Saturday

COACHELLA VALLEY: Thirty-one of the life-size artworks go on the block in Rancho Mirage.

Bighorn sale

What: Path of the Bighorn Auction

When: Saturday

Hours: Registration and viewing begins at 11 a.m.; auction starts at 2 p.m.

Where: The Lodge at Rancho Mirage, 68-900 Frank Sinatra Drive, Rancho Mirage

The "Path of the Bighorn" public art project is coming to an end with its first auction Saturday of the life-size bighorn sheep sculptures dotting the Coachella Valley and celebrity drawings of the rams.

Thirty-one of the 107 painted and decorated fiberglass sculptures and more than 100 bighorn drawings by such stars as John Travolta, Susan Sarandon and Kirk Douglas will be sold at The Lodge at Rancho Mirage.

Proceeds from the project, begun two years ago, will benefit the nonprofit Bighorn Institute, a 22-year-old conservation organization that launched Path of the Bighorn to raise awareness of the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep.

"Our hope is that we will have many of these sculptures that will remain as public art to remind our visitors and residents of this endangered animal," said Lydia Kremer, project coordinator. "None of us expected it to be as large, as well received and as successful as it has become."

Opening bids for the bighorn sculptures, including rams adorned by Cher, Stefanie Powers and Anjelica Huston, weren't disclosed. The live auction is expected to last two hours.

The celebrity drawings - some colorful, some imaginative, and some inscribed with messages - will be auctioned off at $25 per raffle ticket, which will be collected in a box for each drawing.

Alexandra Sheldon, Path of the Bighorn director and president of the institute's Board of Directors, said the money raised from the auction will go toward a $10 million project to build a research and education center for the institute, which has worked to protect the bighorn sheep through recovery programs and captive breeding

"Our office is in a trailer," Sheldon said. "It would be great to build a real building with offices."

Sheldon said she hopes the sculptures will remain in the valley. The 71-inch fiberglass rams, which weigh up to 350 pounds, stand at museums, tourist attractions and other public places. They became so popular that maps were created to point people to each sheep's location.

About 20 sculptures, including the one at Palm Springs International Airport, will remain as public art, Sheldon said. The other artworks will be sold at future auctions, she said.

Sheldon said she won't be able to attend Saturday's sale. "I can't see them go," she said. "My dream is that all location people will buy them."

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