The public can get their Fillerup at Hoffman Fine Art
Sculptor Peter Fillerup, known for his large-scale Pony Express and Western-themed works, said he began working with clay and bronze because his father was also an artist.
"He was a painter, so art was kind of a natural thing for me," Fillerup said during an interview with The Park Record at Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art at Redstone. "We used to do shows together and we would travel around Wyoming.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I got to know my dad on a different level, because every month we would have a show to drive to."
The public can see examples of Fillerup’s works at Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art at Redstone throughout the year. The gallery exhibits some of the artist’s smaller mantle pieces, and a few of his sculpted light fixtures.
In addition, one of Fillerup’s bigger-then-life Pony Express statutes is on permanent display at the Redstone Center gate.
The piece is one of many Pony Express pieces that are part of a project to mark the Pony Express trail through eight states.
"A friend of mine is involved with the National Pony Express Association and he got me involved and it blossomed from there," Fillerup said.
So far, Fillerup has created three of eight Pony Express rider sculptures, including the one at Redstone.
Another is located in Cody, Wyoming, at the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, and the third is at the Cabela’s national office in Sydney, Nebraska.
Fillerup’s fascination with the Pony Express and the West has been with him since he was a child growing up in Wyoming.
"Buffalo Bill has always been a hero of mine and a friend of Bill’s was my neighbor," Fillerup said. "When I was little he gave me a BB gun that was engraved with the words ‘Be A Good Scout.’"
Fillerup thought the slogan meant for him to be a good boy scout, and that had a great influence on him.
"A lot of my works have to do with scouting and the Western theme," he said.
Fillerup liked Western art so much, he hitchhiked from Wyoming down to Oklahoma City to the Cowboy Hall of Fame when he was 19.
"I called my father and told him where I was and he told me he was going to fly out and meet me there," said Fillerup.
On the plane ride back, the young Fillerup decided to become a sculptor while sitting next to Western artist Harry Jackson.
"I listened to him talk to another passenger and figured if Harry could do it, I could, too," he said. "He gave me the courage to do sculpture as a professional."
Fillerup studied at Brigham Young University on an art scholarship and planned to go to Chicago to study art, but changed his mind when he went to Salt Lake City to raise money and landed an apprenticeship with nationally acclaimed sculptor Dr. Avard T. Fairbanks.
"He was 84 at the time and was retiring from the University of Utah," Fillerup said. "So I got a job with him and we did a few projects together. I tell you, I learned more from him than anyplace else."
The budding sculptor received his first commission while working with Fairbanks.
"A man named Joe Beesley was building the Irving Commons Cultural Center, in Sugarhouse, and wanted me to create a stone fountain," Fillerup remembered. "I talked with Avard about it because I was working with him and wondered why Mr. Beesley didn’t go to him."
Fairbanks gave the thumbs up.
"He told me to go for it and said it was a great opportunity for me," Fillerup said.
The building, which also served as Irving Junior High School, has since been refurbished into the Irving Schoolhouse Apartments.
After that project, Fillerup did some other projects to raise money so he could spend the summer in Italy with Fairbanks.
"Things kept rolling in after that," Fillerup said.
Some of his clients include Jon Huntsman Jr., Mitt and Ann Romney, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenburg, U.S. Ambassadors John Price and Mercer Reynolds, Edsel Ford and Tom Cruise, to name a few.
Fillerup’s commercial and public projects have included Camp Cloud Rim Girl Scout Ranch, Heber Valley Railroad, Red Ledges, Storm Mountain in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Maytag Mountain Ranch in Hillside, Colorado, and the Central Wyoming Council Boy Scouts of America building in Casper, Wyoming.
He also has works for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil and British Columbia.
Don Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Exotics and Fine Arts, had known of Fillerup before he became acquainted with the artist five years ago.
"He is a gifted artist and such an easy personality to be around," Hoffman said. "There are a lot of mechanics out there who can do sculpture, but he is a truly an artist.
"He does a lot of work for the Mormon church and can get so wrapped up in those projects that he sometimes loses his identity," Hoffman explained. "I tell him he should be sculpting."
One of the more recent works Fillerup created is called "Hear My Plea." The piece depicts a Native American from the Blackfoot Tribe beating a drum.
"As you go through life, there are different things that move you," Fillerup said. "This came right when the market and economy crashed. It was a personal prayer that was translated into a Native American format. When the chips are down, you want some help and this is my song."
Still, for the sculptor, the real challenge of his craft is found in the big picture.
"One day you’re worried about getting a piece done, because deadlines are a pain," he said with a smile. "But doing the art is fun and challenging, but that’s why you do it. There may be other things you can do for money, but art is inside and you want to express yourself and that’s where it gets fun."
The works of Western sculptor Peter Fillerup are on exhibit at Hoffman Exotics and Fine Art, 1678 W. Redstone Center Dr., Suite 110 and 115, at Kimball Junction. For more information, visit http://www.hoffmansfineart.com . For more information about Peter Fillerup, visit http://www.wildwestdesigns.com.
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