The Museum District’s resident skeleton, known as Skelē — although some call him Mr. Skinny — is a labor of love for Richmonder Justin Bowers. The twelve-foot statue has clung to the side of Justin’s home at the corner of Roseneath Road and Kensington Avenue since he put it up last Halloween.
As the months have gone by, Skelē has donned a number of costumes, including a glowing anatomical heart and wings for Valentine’s Day, an oversized fuzzy bonnet for Easter, and an ornate flower crown for Mother’s Day.
Justin’s been an avid Halloween decorator for several years. Billowing ghosts and bubbling cauldrons adorned his lawn before he found his Home Depot skeleton — an in-demand item. After securing Skelē, Justin challenged himself to learn new skills.
“It became an excuse for me to learn to utilize a welder I had bought,” Justin said. “I sat down in the backyard, spread all the pieces out, bought some scrap steel … and basically learned to weld over the course of a couple days.”
A VCUarts grad, he figured he’d put his creativity in practice and keep redecorating the skeleton. He had Christmas plans that proved too ambitious, but pulled together a costume for New Year’s Eve. The holidays have kept coming, so Justin’s kept decorating.
“Every month, there seems to be some new thing that comes up,” Justin said. “A motivating factor is just how many people say this is beautiful, or I get so excited when I drive by … just pleasing people and making people’s day a little brighter.”
While last year’s Christmas plans didn’t come to fruition, this year Justin wants to fulfill his Jack Skellington dreams. As far as what’s next, he’s not sure — he tends to plan + execute ideas a few days in advance.
“I want it to be left or right of what people expect,” Justin said. “How are all those things going to be prepared in a way that has people surprised when they see it?”
His favorite costume so far has been the Easter Bunny bonnet he crafted for the spring holiday. The larger-scale sewing project challenged him to learn something new.
“I just liked the idea of not having to rely on someone else or pay an exorbitant amount of money for a costume which doesn’t exist because it’s twelve feet tall,” Justin said. “It’s a new adventure to … put my toe in the water and come up with something interesting.”
As notoriety grows, he wants to get more involved with charities and local causes. Last month, he organized a raffle of a prototype bunny bonnet on his Instagram, asking followers to donate to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
“I would love to have more insight about what charities matter to people to see how this could be a thing that could be used for something other than publicity or just visual entertainment value,” Justin said.
Preserving the air of mystery around Skelē has also been on Justin’s mind.
“I try to do all my stuff at night when folks aren’t out seeing me do it, so it’s kind of a surprise the next day,” Justin said. “And also so if I fall off the ladder, no one sees me fall.”