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Peggy Detmers Sculpture

By Jake Iversen

A high profile court case has many Hollywood eyes fixed on Vermillion, South Dakota.

The lawyer for actor Kevin Costner has asked the state's Supreme Court to affirm the ruling that Costner did not breach his contract with an artist he commissioned to create a sculpture for a proposed resort.

The fate of 14 bison and three Lakota riders all depends on the Supreme Court's interpretation of the word "elsewhere."

More than 20 years ago, actor Kevin Costner commissioned artist Peggy Detmers to build a bronze bison hunt sculpture for his proposed resort called "The Dunbar."

But after a decade without construction, Detmers stopped sculpting. The two parties then created a contract for Detmers to finish the project and Costner would ensure her work would not be wasted.

"If 'The Dunbar' were not built in ten years or the sculptures agreeably placed elsewhere, they'd be sold." Said Detmers' attorney Andrew Damgaard.

That "elsewhere" is the heart of the debate.

The resort was never built, but in 2003 the two agreed to place the sculptures on Costner's land near Deadwood. This became known as the new attraction called Tatanka.

"Because the hotel wasn't going to be built or he (Costner) wasn't sure it was going to be built, both parties agreed to put these there (at Tatanka) for the long term and his testimony through the whole trial has been to that effect." Said Costner's attorney Kyle Wiese.

A fact the artist's lawyers don't refute. But they believe Costner hid from Detmers, the fact he never planned to finish building his resort.

"We'll concede that she agreed to the new placement in 2003 on resort property while he still intended to build the resort and the contract still provided him 7 years to build the resort." Said Damgaard.

When the 2010 deadline came and went, Detmers sued claiming Costner broke the contract. The trial judge disagreed.

Now the appeal rests with South Dakota's highest court.

"He (the judge) did not believe Peggy Detmers he believed Kevin Costner and for that reason we respectfully ask you affirm the trial court's decision. thank you." Said Wiese.

Costner paid Detmers more than $300,000 to create the sculptures. He then spent another $6 Million to create the visitor's center and other buildings at the Tatanka site.

Detmers is seeking what is stated in the contract, which is half of the profits made from the sale of the statues. The statutes would only be sold if the court rules in her favor.

The South Dakota Supreme Court will take the next few weeks to determine whether or not to overturn the lower court ruling.

Circuit Judge Randall Macy previously ruled in Costner's favor.

Spatial Thoughts on Sculpture by Bill West
Sometimes sculpture is caught in the middle of controversy. I have no idea about all the legal and ethical ramifications, I just hope hope the best for all involved. By the way, Peggy Detmers creates some wonderfully done sculpture, whether it's Keven Costner's or not!

Peggy Detmers Sculpture
FILE-In this 2003 file photo provided by Touchstone Pictures via RPNewsFoto, actor Kevin Costner stands with bronze sculptures of bison and American Indians at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood, S.D. The South Dakota Supreme Court on Monday, March 19, 2012, will hear an appeal of ruling that found Costner did not breach a contract with an artist whom he commissioned to produce the sculptures. The sculptures were commissioned for a resort he planned in South Dakota's Black Hills. That resort was never built but he instead placed the sculpture at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood. (AP Photo/PRNewsFoto/Touchstone Pictures, File)