Artist recognized for lifetime of honoring miners
Gary Prazen made it his mission in life to honor miners, especially coal miners. Through his company, Original Creations, Inc., Gary sculpted numerous bronze sculptures of miners and their various occupations within the industry. From life size to shelve size statutes down to intricate belt buckles, Gary's art was world renowned for his depiction of the range of emotions of the miners - from euphoria when the motherlode was found, to the happiness of reuniting with family at the end of a long day, to the despair that came with the loss of life as the result of mining accidents.
When Gary became aware of the effort to build a national mining hall of fame, he gave his full support to the effort. Gary's father was a coal miner who was able to make a good living from mining and provide for his family. Gary wanted to pay tribute to his father and all miners who worked to provide us with electricity and metals that give us the quality of life we enjoy in the United States.
Numerous Prazen pieces grace the National Mining Hall of Fame & Museum
(NMHFM). One of the most notable, Anatomy of a Miner, a work of steel, greets visitors to the hall of fame. Other pieces include bronzes such as "Blacksmith", “A man named John”, & “Eureka”.
In 1995, Gary announced the Prazen Living Legend of Mining Award as a symbol of his appreciation for what the mining industry has meant to him. He created a 28-inch bronze statue of a miner to be presented each year, in perpetuity, by NMHF to recognize significant contributions of individuals, groups, or companies increase awareness and understanding of what the mining industry means to all of us. The first Prazen statue was awarded at the 8th Annual National Mining Hall of Fame Induction Banquet to the Colorado School of Mines for their summer field course for high school teachers. The Prazen Living Legend of Mining Award continues to presented each year at the annual induction banquet to a deserving recipient whose innovative programming has educated the public about the importance of minerals and mining to our everyday lives.
In addition to being an artist, Gary was a craftsman as well. He designed, created, and installed an 1880s underground Coal Mine replica including an underground coal mine, mule and coal wagon, railroad track, miner mannequins, and a canary in a cage creating a realistic walk-through replica that is still loved by visitors today. He also crafted miner mannequins for our Hard Rock Mine which is another favorite attraction in the museum.
As if that wasn't enough, Gary rendered a bronze of an ornery miner’s mule entitled “Kick’n Ass” which was presented to former director Dick Moolick in 2008 for his "leadership and determination in shaping the NMHFM into one of the finest museum’s in the western United States."
Additionally, he created a "Leadville Miner” bronze statue which is presented annually to the keynote speaker of the induction banquets.
Gary's passion for his subject is evident in his work. The NMHFM is privileged and honored to have had such a long-standing relationship with this great artist and to display his work in a venue dedicated entirely to mining.