When the residents of Coalville woke up one morning last May, they found a naked lady in their midst. At least, that’s what some of them saw. Others saw a beautiful sculpture fashioned from steel and copper leaves by Utah metal artist Milt Neeley.
With the unveiling of Leaf Dancer, part of a city beautification project organized by the Summit County Public Art Advisory Board, tongues immediately began to wag. Was this nudity? Was this art? Was this right for children to see?
But soon after her initial appearance, the people of Coalville awoke to see Leaf Dancer altered. One day, she wore a coconut bra and grass skirt, causing residents to wonder whether this was vamping or vandalism. Not long afterward, it began to rain—a hard, long rain that went on for days and days. No problem for Leaf Dancer. She next appeared sporting a rain slicker.
In subsequent weeks, the sculpture was dressed as a nun, a mummy, and a cheerleader. One day she appeared with a chef’s hat, a butcher’s apron, and a pair of hot mitts. Another day, she held a sign that said, “Modesty is the best policy.”
“People call her LaFonda,” says Chantel Pace, the city recorder. “Short for Leaf-Fond-A. We all love her. No one knows who’s doing this; the costumes appear overnight.”
“I love it,” Neeley says. “It’s interactive.” Perhaps Neeley’s sculpture has joined the ranks of storied statues worldwide that are frequently refrocked, such as Manneken Pis in Brussels and the Cardiff Kook in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. These costumed statues attract visitors who bring their tourist dollars with them; maybe the town of Coalville will benefit in the same way.
Eventually, seven other delightful artworks accompanied Neeley’s in the city’s public art gallery. Summit County residents voted for their favorite, the one that would be purchased by the City of Coalville and become a permanent sight. Leaf Dancer won hands down, seemingly destined to become a never-ending source of quirky entertainment for locals and visitors alike.
To see all of the artworks created for the beautification project (they are all for sale), see summitartspace.org.