East Lothian steel bear sculpture finally given green light

The legacy of one of East Lothian’s most famous sons is to be immortalised through a five-metre high steel bear.

Sculpted by renowned Scottish artist, Andy Scott, the man behind the Kelpies and other well-loved sculptures, the first images of the bear being constructed in the workshop have now been unveiled.

John Muir, born in Dunbar in 1838, played a key role in the development of America’s national parks. He emigrated from Scotland in 1849 and is famous for petitioning the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill, establishing Yosemite National Park. The bear is symbolic of John Muir’s travels through the far-off wilderness of America’s west, in the Rockies and Alaska.

Planning permission for this piece of public art has now been finally granted, following approval of conditions though Transport Scotland and final approval by the Scottish Government. The build of the bear is now in progress and will act as a welcoming icon to the town of Dunbar. It is anticipated that it will be unveiled next spring.

The sculpture forms part of the mixed-use Hallhill Development, which started on site in 1999 and has delivered around 1,000 houses already, with approximately 300 currently under development, as well as school provision and commercial and retail outlets.

Situated at the eastern gateway to Dunbar, the location has been selected as it forms the primary gateway into the town and is visible from the railway line.

The sculpture will be made of welded steel and will be fabricated from steel plates of various thicknesses, heavy at the bottom and lighter towards the top, giving the structure an inherent strength. Visitors will be able to access it via a walkway.

Andy Scott, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, has completed over 70 projects across the UK and internationally. His distinctive hand-crafted figurative sculptures combine traditional skill with contemporary fabrication techniques.

Commenting on the final granting of permission, he said: “It is fantastic that we have now been given the green light to create this sculpture in memory of such an influential character as John Muir, especially given today’s environmental climate.

“His role in creating national parks is well known in the United States, but sadly not so well known here and this bear sculpture will provide an opportunity to enlighten people about the man and his work. It is a symbol of the wilderness John Muir was such a passionate advocate of and is testament to his incredible desire to protect the natural environment.”

Local Dunbar councillor, Norman Hampshire, who is also cabinet spokesperson for the environment, said: “We are thrilled to mark Dunbar’s new gateway with a sculpture by one of Scotland’s most famous sculptors, Andy Scott. The bear is truly symbolic of Dunbar’s rich history, symbolizing its most famous son, John Muir, and will fast become a well-loved local landmark like his other iconic sculptures.”

Ken Ross from Hallhill Developments added: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government has approved this fantastic piece of public art and are actively engaged with Andy to get the bear erected in Dunbar in spring 2019.

“The Hallhill development has brought tremendous benefits to the area, including new much-needed homes and commercial and retail opportunities. This piece of art will not only contribute to the emerging identity of Dunbar’s new gateway, but has the potential to draw people into the area to find out more about John Muir.”

Tags: East Lothian

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