Los Alamos Historical Sculptures Master Plan – The Details

Oppenheimer and Groves statues on Central Avenue in front of Fuller Lodge adorned with flowers during the 2012 County Fair. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

By Greg Kendall
Los Alamos Daily Post


The Historical Sculptures Master Plan

The Historical Sculptures “Master Plan” proposes 18 bronze lifelike statues representing five eras of Los Alamos History be placed in multiple locations in the downtown Los Alamos area. 

The historical eras are the Manhattan Project, Ranch School, Homestead, Cold War and Ancestral Pueblo.

Nancy Bartlit, a former county councilor and past president of the Historical Society is the driving force behind the Master Plan.

It is, to a major degree, her vision that has driven the project thus far. Bartlit began working on the project back in 2003. She is currently a member of the Historic Sculptures Master Plan Implementation Joint Subcommittee. 

This subcommittee is tasked with refining the plan further and developing funding sources for the sculptures.

In July 2009, the original Historical Sculptures Master Plan Committee met for the first time to develop the Master Plan.

The Master Plan was designed as a 10-year plan to develop and place new sculptures in Los Alamos over the life of the plan.

Council approved the Master Plan in 2010. With only two of the 18 sculptures installed, the plan is taking longer to implement than anticipated.

Project goals identified in the Master Plan are to place the statues between the Bradbury Science Museum and Fuller Lodge Historical Museum, avoiding obscure locations. 

The statues are intended to “connect” the two museums. The locations have been modified from the original plan to include the new Los Alamos County Municipal Building where the Art in Public Places Advisory Board (APPAB) is recommending statues of Lois and Norris Bradbury.  

The original plan also included placing one statue in Santa Fe.   

Master Plan Suggestions for Identity and Approximate Locations of Statues

First Five Years of Plan

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer – Fuller Lodge (Completed and Installed)
  • Major General Leslie R. Groves – Fuller Lodge (Completed and Installed)
  • Lois Bradbury – Municipal Building (Public input being solicited)
  • Norris Bradbury – Municipal Building (Public input being solicited)
  • Boy Scout – Northeast corner of Ashley Pond
  • Horse – Northeast corner of Ashley Pond
  • Hispanic Male Homesteader – Romero Cabin
  • U.S. Army Women’s Army Corps [WAC] – In front of CB Fox area
  • U.S. Army Special Engineer Detachment [SED] – In front of DB Fox Area
  • Pueblo Woman coiling a pot – Pueblo Village near Romero Cabin
  • Dorothy McKibbin, the “Gatekeeper” – City of Santa Fe, 109 E. Palace Courtyard

Second Five Years of Plan

  • Peggy Pond Church – Corner of Bathtub Row and Peach Street
  • Deak Parsons –  Ice House Memorial, Ashley Pond or Fuller Lodge
  • George Kistiakowsky – Red Cross Building
  • James L. Tuck – Sitting on wall of Ice House Memorial, Ashley Pond
  • Jean Nereson – West of Mesa Public Library
  • Stan Ulam – Spruce Cottage (north of Historical Museum on Bathtub Row)
  • Nick Metropolis – Location to be determined

The Master Plan envisions a walking tour that includes descriptions of the sculptures that provide historical context. The tour is expected to be a tourist draw.

The statues are designed to “beautify the downtown and enhance cultural events,” and to “bring life and immediacy to the Los Alamos downtown and historical area through accurately and meaningfully presented life-size, historic bronze statues.”

As of now, two existing sculptures of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Major General Leslie R. Groves have been installed at Fuller Lodge where they are visible from Central Avenue. 

The two statues were approved by the council in February 2010 and funded entirely by the Arts in Public Places account of the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Fund. 

The plan also suggests placing medallions of other historic figures such as Otto Frish, Hans Bethe, Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr along Central Avenue sidewalks that lead from the Bradbury Museum to Fuller Lodge. 

The medallions on the walking tour could include figures that are not on the bronze statue list.

An “Aggressive” Plan that Needs Private Funding Efforts

At the time the Master Plan was adopted, it was recognized that it was an “aggressive” plan. Besides identifying sculpture subjects and installation locations, the plan was intended as a guide for funding the artwork. 

The cost of creating the sculptures was to be partially funded by the Capital Improvement Program Fund and it was hoped that donations would help supplement the costs.

It was anticipated by the designers of the Master Plan that individuals and entities that had relationships to the historical figures would be willing to provide funding for the creation of the statues. 

“Families might come forward to donate money for statues,” Bartlit said in 2010. 

A recent meeting of the Arts in Public Places Advisory Board. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

APPAB and the CIP Fund

The APPAB’s mission is to “encourage the integration of art into the architecture of municipal structures, increase the general public awareness of art, to visually enhance the community, to capture a part of our history for future generations, to promote the establishment of a collection of art with the works of artists who live or work, or who have lived or worked, in Los Alamos County having a high priority.”

The APPAB is soliciting public input on three proposed sketches for bronze statues of Norris and Lois Bradbury that have been proposed for the new Municipal Building.  Council will review and possibly approve one of these sculpture designs soon. 

Council will review the placement, artist selection, artist vision (proposal drawing) and funding sources of each proposal. 

The selected artist will receive a commission to complete the lifelike bronze sculptures of the Bradburys. (View public comment about the three proposals in the County’s “open forum” webpage. See links below.) 

The Art in Public Places CIP fund account receives 1 percent from the cost of each county capital improvement project and .5 percent of road project costs. 

This CIP fund is used to purchase works of art. There is currently a large amount of money in the art account as a result of the large number of big ticket CIP projects that the County has constructed over the last few years, including Pajarito Cliffs, the new Municipal Building and the Justice Center. 

The account has grown to approximately $800,000 and it is expected to grow by approximately $200,000 over the next couple of years from additional planned CIP and road work projects.  

With each bronze sculpture estimated to cost $60,000 to $80,000, 18 sculptures could cost $1 million to $1.5 million.

If additional sources of funding are not found, this expense might deplete the fund.

It is anticipated that CIP construction will slow down over the next decade or so. The CIP Fund for Arts in Public Places will not likely see this high a level of available funds for the foreseeable future, according to a source with knowledge of the art accounts funding situation.

The APPAB has many other art purchases in the planning stages beyond the 18 bronze sculptures. The board is currently working toward placing art works at Ashley Pond as part of the pond’s rehabilitation project, the White Rock Visitor Center and other White Rock locations. 

The board is discussing other art works for the Municipal Building’s grand entrance corridor.

The original Master Plan encouraged the County to assign a staff member to help with fundraising functions. Anthony Mortillaro, county administrator at the time, rejected that suggestion. Mortillaro suggested contracting with a private entity for such efforts.

Then Councilor Nona Bowman suggested that a citizen group might help raise the necessary funds.

The Plan Receives Approval

The Master Plan, including a specific design and placement proposal for the Groves and Oppenheimer statues, was presented to the Los Alamos County Council for approval Feb. 16, 2010

The motion, in part, “that the Art in Public Places Board use this Master Plan as a guide in selecting future life-size historic sculptures,” passed council 5-1. Then Councilor Vincent Chiravalle opposed the motion. 

Ron Wilkins, Fuller Lodge/Historic District Advisory Board (FL/HDAB) Chair at the time of the Master Plan approval said, “the Master Plan lays out a vision for celebrating the rich history of Los Alamos. It is a step toward making the downtown more interesting and vital, not only to visitors, but to residents as well. He urged Council to accept the Plan as a guide and to approve the recommended site location for the sculptures [of Groves and Oppenheimer.]”

Sept. 11, 2012, Council created the Historic Sculptures Master Plan Implementation Joint Subcommittee made up of three members of the FL/HDAB and two from the APPAB. The Charter of the joint subcommittee is as follows:

  • Explore ways to expedite the procurement of the sculptures described in the Master Plan and prepare to propose recommendations to APPAB & FL/HDAB.
  • Explore alternative funding sources, including private donations, for the historical sculptures.
  • Define the characteristics sought in distinguishing statues from different eras as mentioned in the Master Plan and prepare to propose recommendations to APPAB & FL/HDAB.
  • Consider other issues as requested by either the APPAB or the FL/HDAB and report back to both boards.

The Next Steps in the Master Plan

County Council members have asked that the Master Plan be presented at an upcoming council meeting for review, possibly as soon as May. 

Recent public debate concerning the Master Plan, especially concerning how to fund the plan, has led some councilors to question how the plan can be implemented in its present form.

At a recent meeting of the APPAB, the board voted to table the selection of a finalist for the Bradbury statues. The board indicated that selecting the sculptures’ artist should wait until after Council reviewed the Master Plan.

At some point, depending on the outcome of the Master Plan review, it is expected that the County Council will be asked to approve a recommendation from the APPAB for design and funding of the Norris and Lois Bradbury statues. 

The APPAB will evaluate a recommendation for the next subjects and statue location from the Master Plan.

The Historic Sculptures Master Plan Implementation Joint Subcommittee will continue working to refine the plan and develop fundraising avenues.

Click HERE to view the Historical Sculptures Master Plan that was approved as a guide to the APPA Board by County Council Feb 16, 2010.

Click HERE to view the minutes of the Feb 16, 2010 Council Meeting that include the adoption of the Historical Sculpture Master Plan.

Click HERE to view the County’s open forum devoted to the three proposals for statues of Lois and Norris Bradbury (select “Closed Topics”.) Public input may still be given directly to County Councilors, as they will take up this topic at a future council meeting.  [Editor’s Note:  This forum topic has been removed by the county.]

Click HERE to view the Los Alamos Municipal Code Ordinance Sec. 20-363 to 365, which describes the Art in Public Places account of the Capital Improvements Program and how the account is funded.


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