When Jack and Kim Bacon first stepped into the gallery of Reno-based artist Peter Hazel, they couldn’t help but notice the beautiful glass and mosaic butterflies that he had created.

“My wife said to me, ‘You know who needs one of these?’” Jack recalled.

The answer was obvious — Rosalynn Carter.

Jack Bacon immediately commissioned Hazel to create “Dancing Monarchs,” a 14-foot-tall and 16-foot-wide sculpture in honor of the former first lady, who turns 95 on Thursday.

Credit: Jack Baco

Credit: Jack Baco

The sculpture’s dedication is part of a big tribute to the wife of former President Jimmy Carter. She is known for her advocacy for mental health and caregiver issues, and the co-founder of The Carter Center in Atlanta.

Along with having a rose, an orchid, a camellia and an azalea named for her, Rosalynn Carter is also a long-time advocate for monarch butterfly conservation.

Rosalynn “has been a pioneer in championing causes and policies and establishing resources to address them decades before they became mainstream,” said Paige Alexander, chief executive officer of The Carter Center.

Jill Stuckey, superintendent of the National Park Service’s Jimmy Carter National Historical Park in Plains, said the Carters are planning a quiet birthday celebration on Thursday.

“We are cooking her favorite meal — beef liver and my mother’s homegrown corn for dinner,” Stuckey said. “Family is coming in to help her celebrate.”

The Carter Center and Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers have been encouraging people around the world to celebrate Carter’s 95th birthday by sending her a birthday wish on social media using the hashtag #MrsCarterMakingHistory. They also encourage people to share their personal stories and experiences of the impact of her work.

In 2013, The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, a network of monarch butterfly-friendly public and private gardens across the United States, was launched with the first butterfly garden established at her childhood home in Plains.

Pollinator gardens were then added around Plains in public areas like Main Street, the Georgia Visitors Center, the Plains High School Museum and the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm.



There are currently 22 small public in-ground and container gardens around Plains providing nectar and host plants for butterflies. More than 1,400 private and public gardens across the world have joined the trail.

“Dancing Monarchs” was installed by Hazel last week and dedicated Saturday night in the Rosalynn Smith Carter Childhood Garden at the home where Carter grew up on what is now Rosalynn Carter Trail.

Credit: Courtesy Jack Bacon

Credit: Courtesy Jack Bacon

“She was extremely happy,” Bacon said of Carter. “They were very excited about coming out to see it.”

Bacon, an art appraiser and collector, has been working with the Carters for more than 30 years helping to raise money for The Carter Center.

The $40,000 sculpture was paid for by donations from friends of the Carters.

On Saturday night, Carter flipped the switch to officially light the sculpture.

Credit: Jack Bacon

Credit: Jack Bacon

“To be able to do a piece for the first lady and Jimmy Carter is a dream come true,” said Hazel, who has only been doing professional artwork for 10 years. “It is hard for me to completely take it all in.”

The massive sculpture took Hazel about two months to complete and about two days to install in Plains.

Eight upright steel stems symbolize August, the eighth month.

Atop the stems are 400 steel leaves and 18 glass butterflies, corresponding with the day that Carter was born.

The Carters celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary in July. Jimmy Carter will turn 98 in October.

Credit: Courtesy Jack Bacon

Credit: Courtesy Jack Bacon

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