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Bronzed and cut 

click to enlarge JILL THOMAS

Bronzed and cut With long white hair and a bushy beard that tumbles down his chest, Charles Rockey looks something like a cross between Santa Claus and Leonardo da Vinci and in Manitou Springs, he has a comparable mystique.

"He's a celebrity," says local artist Robert Morlan, pictured left. "But even more, he is a real person with a real heart and a real important place in the community."

For 30-plus years, Rockey has celebrated the sights and spirit of Manitou Springs in his highly acclaimed artwork. Now the town is celebrating him. Morlan is sculpting a 9-foot-tall bronze statue as a tribute to Rockey.

"I was thinking how crazy it is ... that we only try to memorialize important people after they are gone," Morlan says.

In some towns, a figure like Rockey might seem an unusual choice for a statue. But in the artists' community of Manitou Springs, his presence as resident muse is huge. The statue Morlan envisions will feature gnomes, fairies and forest creatures surrounding Rockey, as he paints amid toadstools. The toadstools also will serve as seats for those who visit the piece.

To raise the $100,000 needed to produce the sculpture, Morlan has created and will sell a smaller, limited-edition bronze relief based on it. The relief will be unveiled during a fundraising reception at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, at The Cliff House (306 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs).

Donations also are being accepted at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. Call 685-0602 or visit sculptbronze.com for more information.

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