Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Ranger Richard Dollard is on his third successful career, but it’s his hobby that made him famous. The Lander, Wyo., native has been a wildland fire jumper, high school art teacher, BIA and BLM law enforcement officer...and did I mention, he’s a highly-esteemed bronze sculptor?

Dollard’s works of art adorn numerous private homes, with large monuments at three public schools in Wyoming. The large bronze tiger, bobcat and cougar, representing each school’s mascot, are great sources of school and community pride.

“I was always interested in art and drawing since I was a kid,” admitted Dollard. He explained his love of art drove his initial educational and career pursuits.

He attended junior college, receiving an Associate of Arts degree, and later Chadron State College in Nebraska, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education. While in college, he competed successfully as a wrestler, and later was an assistant coach.

But it was Dollard’s high adrenaline summers during his college years that weren’t for the faint of heart. He worked as a wildland firefighter! “I loved it, and it helped pay for school.”

His first job in art education was as a public school teacher in Thermopolis, Wyo. Dollard taught secondary art at the high school. “I enjoyed working with the students.”

But wanderlust (fueled by summer firefighting money), compelled him to resign his teaching job after two years. Dollard decided to travel and observe the magnificent art and bronzes that grace much of Europe. Going from London to Paris, Brussels to Madrid, he continued on to spend time in Florence, Italy, and then to Milan, France. “I did it because I wanted to see the artwork of the masters.”

Dollard’s European tour lasted four months. “It was amazing to see that level of artwork. I did a lot of sketches and drawing during that time.”

Upon his return, he took a job at a bronze foundry. It was a great career segue for Dollard. “I heard about the foundry, and had always been curious about the bronzing process.”

And the entire process is complicated, and time and labor intensive!

With multiple steps to recount (and I won’t do them justice), it goes from the artist’s drawing to the small ‘maquette’ (small, preliminary sculpting model), to the foam form, clay application, and to the mold creation that is sent to the foundry. Then there’s a wax cast that is created and then reworked (called wax chasing).

Once that is done, it goes to the sprueing (the hole through which metal is poured), process. Eventually, through numerous firing processes on the mold, a ceramic shell is created that is hollow on the inside, where the bronze is poured. Many more steps occur after the bronze is poured, concluding with sandblasting, metal chasing, and the patina (bronze coloring) process.

Dollard worked in numerous areas of the foundry, but it was the bronze’s actual creation that interested him most. “I began working with the professional artists who were willing to coach me. And that’s how I learned.”

He began getting commissions himself, and has enjoyed good success. He has many works of bronze now, including the mascots mentioned above, a snowmobile, boy Indian chief and other southwestern images.

That’s not all that working at the foundry did for him – he met his wife Heidi there! (Coincidentally, she was the bosses’ daughter!) “I was intimidated to ask her out at first, but I finally got up the courage.”

Richard and Heidi have five girls and one boy, and live in Hurricane.

You’re probably wondering how the sculptor ended up working as a law enforcement officer in southern Utah for the BLM.

The 2009 recession hit, leaving the sculptor needing more work. “I had a friend who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in law enforcement. I applied, got hired and took the training. I worked five years for them.”

He said the career move surprised most of his family, but his brother-in-law said that someone who used to jump out of airplanes and into fires probably could handle the job!

Dollard next worked for the Forest Service in Washington State, but wanted to return to the southwest. “This position was open, so I applied for and got it.”

With a year recently under his belt, you might say he’s enjoying the job. “Kane County is beautiful and there are many places of artistic inspiration. In fact, I would love to see there be a bronze in Kanab. A setting with the red rocks in the background, it would be a prime spot for a good piece of sculpture.”

Dollard said that bronzes develop well over time. “Bronzes are going to stand the test of time. It’s knowing that (as the sculptor) I’ve played a small part in someone or some place’s history.”