The following words are transcribed on the invitational bronze plaque that is part of “The Bronzes of Midway,” located in Midway’s Centennial Park. “Brigham Young encouraged the early settlers to beautify their homes and respective cities and towns, to ‘do that which will increase beauty and excellence among the people,’ and to surround themselves with the sounds of pleasing and beautiful music, together with thoughts and words that edify. He went on to say, ‘This will make us happy.’ These words and sculptures are an invitation to you, to beautify your homes and communities through the planting of flowers and trees, through neatness and industry, through music, and through your own unique gifts and contributions.”
The Bronzes of Midway project was unveiled on August 8, 2020. It is the brainchild of the Wasatch County Centennial Committee: Jim Smedley, Florine Whiting, and Kay Probst. Kevin Watts designed the setting for the sculptures, and his son Russ executed the construction of the site. Mayor Celeste Johnson, the city of Midway, and Carl Berg supplied the landscaping. Artist Leroy Transfield created the bronze sculptures.
Leroy was born and raised in New Zealand and, as a child, loved to draw. Dyslexia made reading very difficult, so drawing was always a safe place to flee. Sometimes he’d get in trouble at school for filling his composition books with drawings rather than words. Leroy eventually learned to read; his passion at 14 was running, so the first book he read thoroughly was on that subject.
Leroy began experimenting with sculpting small figures as a teen but still enjoyed drawing and might have become a painter if not for a decision that would change his destiny. While at BYU-Hawaii, he heard about an amazing sculpture teacher and program. He decided to give it a try. Leroy fell in love with the art and has been sculpting ever since.
Leroy shared, “I work out of my studio in Orem, which is also where my wife and I raised our family. I’ve been sculpting for what seems like most of my life, about 38 years. I trained at BYU-Hawaii, and I’ve been living in Utah for 26 years. Since I’ve been in Utah, I’ve done some work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve done a number of public pieces, veteran’s memorials in Springville, Salem, Santaquin, and Orem, and other pieces for various cities in Utah, as well as sold my pieces through galleries, and completed private commissions.”
Some of Leroy’s past projects made him a good candidate for the Midway project; including his veteran’s memorials, the bronze relief sculpture “Peace be unto you,” above the doors at the LDS Newport Beach California Temple, and eight relief sculptures for Prairie Park at Martin’s Cove in Wyoming, which depict the story of the Martin and Willie handcart company tragedy.
Richard Oman of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church Museum had worked with Leroy before and referred him to Jim Smedley of the Wasatch County Centennial Committee. Leroy was interested in the Midway project for several reasons.
“Midway and Heber are nice areas, and I have friends there. It’s always nice to do projects close to where your friends live and close to where you live. Also, Jim Smedley sounded like an open guy. He wasn’t just looking for a gun for hire. He explained to me what he was hoping to achieve with the project. He was interested in my thoughts and ideas about it, so I had the opportunity to draw upon my experience and skills and be creative in coming up with pieces that visually spoke the words contained within the bronze invitational plaque.”
Coming up with the ideas for sculptures wasn’t an easy task. Leroy explained, “It was a lengthy process. Jim told me about the Brigham Young statement about the importance of beautifying our homes and neighborhoods. He gave me some poems about planting a tree and gifts that grow. He then told me what he wanted people to think or feel when they saw it [the sculptures] and how he hoped the project would impact the community. I made quite a few sketches and small clay sculptures between 6 and 12 inches tall; some of them were simple, and others were more refined. Then I showed them to the committee, and they gave me feedback.”
The finished project consists of three sculptures: a mother and her young son planting a tree, a girl playing the violin, and a large relief of a family under a grown tree enjoying its shade and one another’s company while the father plays the guitar. Leroy shared, “The first one I came up with was the violin player. Florine Whiting, from the committee — as a violinist herself — really liked that one. Next was the life-size sculpture of a mother teaching her young son how to plant a tree. The third piece was a large bronze golden rectangle-shaped wall piece of a family sitting under a tree. I created a sketch of this one which received a lot of good comments from the committee. Because they liked all three of these pieces, rather than just do one of them, the girl, the mother, or the family, they decided to commission all three. So, that’s how it came to be.”
The entire project, from start to finish, has taken an incredible amount of time and effort on the part of many in our community. Anyone who has visited Midway’s Centennial Park can attest that it was all well worth it. Leroy stated, “This was a challenging but rewarding project. I liked working with Jim, and the rest of the committee, and I liked the idea of what they were trying to create. The project actually took a long time. From the time I started on it until it was finally unveiled was eight years, so that’s quite a big chunk of my career as an artist. I didn’t spend eight years making it, but it took eight years to finally have the unveiling of it. Others had been working on it even longer, so I’m glad that it is now in place and people can enjoy it and hopefully be motivated to beautify Heber Valley and really contribute the best of themselves in their lives.”
Leroy’s art is inspired by life, family, and community, “The ideas for these sculptures came from my experience of being a father and raising a family, we had a daughter who learned to play the violin, and we also taught our family about plants and how to work, and that family time was a top priority. When I created the sculptures, I was hoping that people would look at them and be inspired to take pride in their homes and community and beautify them. My feeling was, if we create something nice with the sculptures, then the visitors will want to go home and also beautify their own homes and neighborhoods and take pride in where they live. In addition, these sculptures have to do with the cultivating of talents, striving for excellence through your talents or chosen vocation. Also, there is the theme of family, enjoying family, and being a responsible member of a family. And the last theme is that what you do now can bless people in the future, so the mother is planting a tree with her son and then in not too many years, that tree is going to grow, and people from future generations will sit under it and enjoy it as well. These are the things I hope visitors take away when they visit the “Bronzes of Midway.”
Visit the “Bronzes of Midway”
Midway’s Centennial Park
77 North Center Street, Midway
EXPLORE Leroy’s art