The "Luna Mothra," a 300-pound mixed-media beast with LED illuminated eyes and twenty-foot-wide wings, will preside over the Mishawaka Amphitheatre beginning May 7. Commissioned by Dani Grant to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her co-ownership of the Bellvue venue with partner Matt Hoeven, the "Luna Mothra" will stand as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.
“The Poudre Canyon’s been through a lot," says Grant. "I really feel the strength of nature and the maternal vibe of 'Luna Mothra' — she’s got that mama-bear drive."
Before she assumed ownership of the Mishawaka, Grant ran an artist incubator nonprofit. In that role, she worked to bring musicians to venues like the Mishawaka. Nick LoFaro, who is a celebrated sculptor, happened to be a member of one of the bands Grant worked with. So when she began to think about a statement piece that could capture values of renewal and regrowth, she reached out to LoFaro to commission the piece.
The sculptor, who often works with metal, thought of the Roman moon deity Luna, and Mothra — a kaiju, or fictional monster, who most famously appears as Godzilla’s sidekick. LoFaro had grown up watching Japanese horror films, and he wanted to honor Mothra’s sacredness and protectorship of planet Earth. So he melded together the mythological traits of Luna and Mothra while sprinkling in folklore associated with the notion of the divine feminine and fairies. He came up with the "Luna Mothra," a hybrid beast who would embody the spirit of optimism for humanity and feminine rebirth. LoFaro has also written a comic-illustrated companion book to the sculpture about the mythos of the "Luna Mothra," which will be available at the Mishawaka for purchase.
The "Luna Mothra" sculpture is composed of 50 percent reclaimed materials; bike parts, tractor pieces and forks were welded together to form the final piece. The sculpture had been slated to be unveiled in April of last year, but the pandemic prevented the celebration party from taking place. With the extra time, LoFaro continued to work on "Luna Mothra."
“What was interesting was being forced to wait a year before we installed her," Grant says. "She just became this symbol of patience and perseverance. Nick LoFaro just continued to work on her and hone it, and now, at the end of a year and a half, she’s just that much more sophisticated and polished. She’s more wise, in a way,”
LoFaro built the sculpture in his studio and will disassemble it before driving it to the Mishawaka to be installed on May 6.
“Dani’s initial vision for the sculpture celebrates the canyon itself," notes project manager Bryan Simpson. "The Poudre Canyon is a community, and the owners are merely stewards of the Mishawaka venue."
The Mishawaka was founded in 1916 by Walter Thompson as an outpost of Fort Collins. From the outset, the venue was focused on music. Thompson hosted dances at the dance hall and was a musician and musical teacher himself. But in the years before Grant and Hoeven assumed ownership of the Mishawaka, the venue had fallen into disarray.
“I was always like, ‘What a waste of a beautiful space,’ every time I went up there to do a show,” Grant says.
Then owner Robin Jones had mismanaged shows and neglected basic upkeep of the venue, Grant says. He was eventually arrested and sentenced following a drug bust. But in a twist of good luck for Grant, Jones had owed someone in town a lot of money, who had taken the Mishawaka as collateral. Eventually, Grant was able to buy the Mishawaka from him — avoiding a requisition by the feds — and began her work with Hoeven to spruce things up and rebuild damaged relationships.
“I really didn’t have any intention of going into venue management or running a venue," Grant says. "But it was a great opportunity, and so I took it. We have since created more and more opportunities for local artists and created a very welcoming landing spot for touring artists in the canyon. It’s turned out beautifully."
On top of the rebirth of the Mishawaka venue, the 2021 season marks a return from the live music slowdown during the pandemic. The Mishawaka, which has already been hosting concerts, has announced an expanded season this year and will host fifty to sixty shows by the end of November.
“I remember some of the first shows being incredibly euphoric and emotional for me because it was such a relief — like music is happening, all is well in the world...even though it’s not quite the same,” Grant says. “I [kept] touching base back with 'Luna Mothra' — like, how is she? What’s new? And now, to see her unveiled and have us be reopening and coming out of our cocoon, it all just works.”
“She’ll be a beautiful emblem to this crazy time, a celebration of life in the canyon,” Simpson says.
For more information about the Mishawaka, go to the venue's website.