The northwest lawn of the Denver Public Library in Denver, Colorado, is home to a whimsical piece of public art by Donald Lipski. Although not created for Denver, it’s one of the city’s most beloved sculptures. Entitled “The Yearling,” the piece features an enormous red chair with a pinto pony standing on its seat as if left behind by a giant toddler.
In 1993, the sculpture was commissioned to stand outside a Washington Heights elementary school in New York City. However, the school district asked Lipski to remove the horse. He refused, asserting that doing so would take away the magic of the piece. Lipski intended to create something appealing to a child’s sense of scale and wonder.
After its completion, the sculpture was placed in storage while the city looked for an alternate display location. Ownership of the piece finally reverted to Lipski in exchange for him creating another art installation. In 1997, “The Yearling” was placed on temporary display at the Doris Freedman Plaza of New York’s Central Park. While there, it was seen and purchased by Nancy Tieken as a gift for the City of Denver. It was moved there and permanently installed outside the children’s wing of the public library in 1998.
The red chair is fabricated from steel and measures 21-feet tall and 10-feet wide. Nicknamed “Scout,” the pony is six feet tall, from hooves to ears. He was made from painted fiberglass.
Unfortunately, the harsh Denver ultraviolet rays caused the horse’s finish to fade and it required annual repainting. A mold was made of the original pony and the figure was recast in more durable, permanent bronze. The fiberglass pony was moved to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper’s office. He became so attached to the horse that it moved with him to his new office when he became Colorado governor in 2011.
Although an eastern transplant, “The Yearling” is adored by its second hometown of over 20 years. Voted “favorite sculpture,” it was featured on the covers of the Denver Telephone Directory and a regional street atlas. It was even the subject of a question on the television quiz show Jeopardy!