This was in The Lyons Recorder newspaper - Written by By Henry J. Barone
Have you ever been inspired by someone to the point where it changes the way you think and feel about the
world? Well, this happened to me in my fifth grade year at Lyons Elementary with a few of my fellow
students. It all started in fifth grade during our Human Rights Unit. Specifically, we were learning about how
people with disabilities have also had to fight for fair treatment in our country. This is how we were
introduced to Alonzo Clemons, Sculpture Savant.
Mr. Clemons came and spoke to our fifth grad class about the challenges of his life after having a brain
injury at the age of three. This trauma changed his life forever in a powerful way. He became a sculpture
savant. A savant is someone whose brain works in such a way that they become outstandingly gifted in one
subject of thinking. For Alonzo Clemons it is sculptures. He works mainly on big mammals, but the Great
Spanish Bull is his favorite to sculpt. As crazy as it sounds, we saw that in a matter of minutes he could
produce an amazing sculpture from memory. Although his accident caused Alonzo severe mental and
physical challenges, this trauma also gave him the gift of being a sculpture savant and the world has
embraced his artistic gift with a new acceptance for people with disabilities.
After meeting Alonzo, we started thinking about how we should support his artwork and raise money to
purchase a sculpture of his. After many conversations at lunch and recess, we came up with the idea of a
Legacy Project for out school. We had lots of scattered ideas about how to raise money for this sculpture. We
then proposed this idea to our principal, Andrew Moore. He then asked us to talk to the PTO. We scheduled
a meeting with the PTO and proposed our idea. By now we had decided that the sculpture should be a
mountain lion, because it’s our school mascot and it represents that Lyons, CO is full of strong people. The
PTO decided that they would give us money and their support. Also, they gave us the idea of going to
different businesses in Lyons, especially the Lyons Arts and Humanities Council. During our presentation,
the LAHC along with the Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass promised to support our efforts.
Now we were ready to ask Alonzo Clemons if he would make us a mountain lion sculpture, and if he would
make it, how much money it would cost. A small group of fifth graders then contacted Alonzo’s secretary
and asked her if he would create the statue. She wrote back that the process would be for us to raise our
money and then he would create the sculpture according to the funding we were able to raise. Now that we
had raised our money in the community, we asked all the fifth graders to contribute at least five dollars to the
sculpture. Our idea worked, and we finally had enough money to commission the sculpture. Alonzo said that
the statue would be ready by the fall of our sixth grade year, and now it is finally on display at Lyons
I learned two big life lessons from this project. First, even though you are a kid, if you set your mind to
something, you can accomplish most anything. Second of all, never judge someone on how they look or any
apparent disability you think you see. We all have amazing strengths and talents to contribute to our world. I
am so grateful that I was able to lean about Mr. Clemons and meet such an inspirational person at a young
Several years ago, Alonzo's life-sized Arabian foal, Cassie, was purchased for placement at KidsPark, a disability-accessible play area at Lafayette Elementary School. Ultimately, for several reasons, the sculpture could not be placed in the schoolyard. But Alonzo's PATH partner, Jay Ruggeri, has really taken on the cause of a public placement for Cassie with the Lafayette Public Arts Commission. He hopes to tie in such a placement with Alonzo's broader involvement with the elementary schools in Lafayette. Stay tuned for future news about this effort.Download Newsletter
One of Alonzo’s new friends asked a question that I had asked over 20 years ago, “Can I buy a sculpture that has not been cast in bronze?”
Nancy Mason wrote this reply –
Alonzo, of course, creates all these sculptures using clay or a wax/clay mixture. Then a mold is made from his model, and then it goes to the foundry for casting.
The reason we are unable to sell any of his original models is that they have no inherent permanence. Most of the sculptures he makes are unable to stand on their own, as he typically uses only a minimum of armature, or interior structure. In addition, over time, the oils in the clay often "sweat" out to the surface, where they collect any piece of dust in the area, or else the surface of the piece dries out and flakes. And finally, the limbs, horns, tails, etc. of a sculpture bend and break off easily, and the surface is easily marred.
The mold made for the casting is the exact representation of the work Alonzo did, and he is also in the habit of going to the foundry to check the first wax casting that is done from the mold, to make sure it looks as he intended.
Once the mold is made, it may be used repeatedly, up to the edition number that is originally set (Tony Joe, like most of Alonzo's sculptures, is in an edition of 30, meaning that is the maximum number of times that sculpture will be cast).Download Newsletter
A wonderful opportunity has arisen for Alonzo, as he has been commissioned to create a mountain lion sculpture for Lyons Elementary School. Teacher Mr. Timothy Ambrose tells how this project came to be:
"From September through December 2015, Lyons Elementary School 5th grade students studied human rights. They read novels with characters who had disabilities and who experienced injustices, while building empathy. They studied injustices in slavery and read stories about African American history. Rex Peoples from the Colorado Blues Society visited and discussed these important topics and told stories through blues music, continuing to build empathy. They read and interpreted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, examining each article. The final visit for the 5th grade human rights project was from Alonzo, who has visited the school previously as well. The students learned about Alonzo's background and savant syndrome, and watched him demonstrate his sculpting. Alonzo's message and presence resonated with this class in a powerful way.
The day after Alonzo's visit, they began to meet in groups on their own. Then they met with teachers, our principal, and parents, trying to see if they could raise money for a mountain lion sculpture as a legacy project for the school. It was important to them to become a customer of Alonzo's art, because during his presentation, he told them that one of his goals is to have lots of customers. The 5th graders prepared and shared a presentation with the PTO as first steps for fundraising and reached out to the community for support. After many months of planning and organizing with community, family and PTO assistance, the 5th graders raised money to become a customer, and commissioned a 14-inch long sculpture of a mountain lion for the school as a legacy project."
Alonzo has been perfecting his mountain lion. Soon it will go into the production process, turning his wax/clay model into a bronze sculpture. It should be ready for presentation to the school in the fall.
The whole connection of Alonzo with Lyons Elementary School has been beautifully facilitated by friend and PATH partner Robert Boggess.Download Newsletter
Alonzo enjoys demonstrating his sculpting abilities for school groups and other audiences, as long as these events are not too frequent. He is accompanied by his assistant, Nancy Mason, or another friend, who tells some of Alonzo's amazing story as he sculpts one or more of his animal figures.
The effect of meeting Alonzo and observing him "doing his thing" can be profound for many in his audiences, and can act as ripples spreading outward on a pond.
A teacher who hosted Alonzo invited a certain parent to attend; this parent had been very opposed to the integration of children with disabilities into her child's classes. She left the presentation with tears in her eyes.
While Alonzo was at the grocery store one day, a young man approached him. "I remember you; you came to my school many years ago. Meeting you inspired me to follow my own dream to become a dancer." And he broke into a little jig for Alonzo, right there in the aisles.
The fifth-graders in one class that met Alonzo were assigned to write a paragraph about their impressions. A number of them made comments such as: "Now I'll think differently about my (cousin, neighbor, etc.) who has a disability."Download Newsletter
Alonzo named this bison “King” or “King of the Plains,” thinking of it as the father of his cast sculpture, “Prince of the Plains.”
Alonzo has done a number of school presentations at Lyons Elementary School, and because they are the “Lyons Lions,” he made this sculpture thinking of them.
Also, the newsletter has some of the sculptures that Alonzo has completed this winter.Download Newsletter
The Man in the Moon
Unique among Alonzo’s creations, this fanciful sculpture shows a new twist on an old theme. Why wouldn’t the face be on the outside rather than the inside of the arc?
Alonzo is continually working on his art. During the cool seasons, when he focuses on sculpture, he will often produce a piece per weekend. Only a small number of his wax/clay models can be cast, but more of these will be shown here, and casting of a particular sculpture is possible if interest is expressed. Let us know!
Also, Alonzo completes his large moose and Alonzo’s baby mooseDownload Newsletter