Auburn's Central Square has new bronze statue of Nisenan dancer

North Auburn artist Douglas Van Howd created work, funded by United Auburn Indian Community
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A sculpture of a Nisenan Indian dancer by North Auburn artist Douglas Van Howd is now the focal point of Downtown Auburn’s Central Square. The statue was installed on a brick base Friday and finishing touches, including the addition of bronze oak leaves at the dancer’s feet, were put in place Monday. Reaction to the new art – a gift of the United Auburn Indian Community – was positive from passersby. Downtown Auburn resident Elaine Delbarga said the new statue was a pleasant surprise to her. It’s located in a sidewalk area that has been expanded into a public gathering place as part of a city project to revitalize the Downtown. Van Howd has become well-known worldwide for his wildlife art and is perhaps best-known for his “Friends of Freedom” sculpture, which is now displayed at the Reagan Library. “Friends of Freedom” shows an American Indian and a bald eagle. The Nisenan dancer statue shows a male Indian dancer moving to the beat of silent drums, holding a rattle and wearing a headdress of woodpecker tail feathers. “I think it’s fabulous,” Delbarga said. “I like the movements, particularly in the necklace, and the detail in the feathers.” Michele Sardella, of Kids Closet on the square, also was taken by the six-foot-high sculpture. It stands adjacent to a fire pit popular for Downtown visitors to huddle around during cold evenings. “It’s much nicer than what I anticipated,” Sardella said. “I didn’t know it was going to be so detailed. The plaza is getting a lot better and this artwork is just the right size for something located around the pit.” The work was commissioned by the United Auburn Indian Community early last year and portrays an anonymous 18th century Nisenan dancer. Van Howd, was unavailable to speak about the bronze Monday, but told the Journal last spring that he was honored to create a sculpture for Auburn after living in the area for 40 years. “I do live here and it represents my work,” Van Howd said. “They wanted me to represent their culture and I did a lot of research on this.” Van Howd’s studies included watching dances at the Maidu Museum in Roseville. The Auburn City Council approved the life-sized statue last May. Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes said Monday that the Central Square has room for more sculptures. One possibility is that Van Howd would provide some of the other sculptures he has created to be displayed on a rotating basis on the square, Holmes said.