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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Ceres Statue Once Again Adorns The Vermont Statehouse's Golden Dome

Lawmakers this year will take up many of the same issues they debated in 2018, including paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage, and whether or not to tax and regulate cannabis.
Peter Hirschfeld
A crane delivered a new statue of the goddess of agriculture to the top of the Vermont Statehouse's golden dome Friday in Montpelier. The 14.5-foot sculpture was designed and carved by Vermont artists.

Hundreds of people flocked to the Statehouse Friday to see the goddess of agriculture reclaim her perch atop the golden dome.

A statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility, has stood on the uppermost point of the Statehouse since 1858, when Brattleboro sculptor Larkin Mead carved the first version out of pine.

When Mead’s Ceres rotted out in the late 1930s, it was replaced by a new statue, carved by Dwight Dwinell, who at the time served as the Statehouse’s sergeant-at-arms.

Last year, state officials decided it was time for a third iteration of one of the most visible works of art in Vermont.

The Dwinell version of the Ceres statue was removed in April. And then months later, shortly after noon on Friday, a crane operator delivered a new, nearly 15-foot Ceres statue to her spot atop the freshly gilded dome.

“The fact that we have our history, and an anchor of our state as agriculture dominating our dome, and the goddess looking over us as we do our work in the Legislature, is an incredibly important testament to what our values are in Vermont,” House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said during a dedication ceremony.

Two Vermont sculptors created the new statue, which was carved from a laminated block of mahogany. Jerry Williams went first, designing a one-quarter scale model based on Mead’s original 1858 statue.

Chris Miller then spent four months carving the full-size version.

“And I felt the best way to honor the earlier craftsmanship was to do as much as physically possible, given the short time frame, by hand, using some of the same tools that had been used in 1858, when the first one was created,” Miller said.

Miller carved the piece at the Vermont Granite Museum, where thousands of people stopped by to watch the statue take shape.

“I’m so incredibly proud that this sculpture was carved just a few miles away in my hometown of Barre, where we still enjoy a vibrant artistic carving community,” Gov. Phil Scott said Friday. “This statue is a testament to our history and their craft.”

A new statue of Ceres is harnessed to be installed on the Vermont Statehouse while a crowd looks on.
Credit Peter Hirschfeld / VPR
A closer look at the new statue of Ceres. A crowd gathered in Montpelier on Friday morning to see the goddess of agriculture reclaim her perch atop the golden dome of the Vermont Statehouse.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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