By Shawn Chitnis

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The artist commissioned with completing the memorial in 2017 for the theater shooting finished installing the sculpture on Sunday less than two weeks before the six-year anniversary.

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(credit: CBS)

“There’s so many feelings, you’re living with this idea and piece for a year,” said Douwe Blumberg, the artist of the sculpture. “This is piece is so emotionally charged, the conversations I’ve had, the stories I was told over the phone, the people I’ve met.”

Blumberg arrived last week to start working on the piece at the reflection garden next to City Hall. He traveled from Kentucky to begin placing the different cranes that make up the memorial. There are 70 white cranes that represent all injured in the shooting, 13 cranes with clear wings for lives lost that night.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s just emotionally over the top, it’s like running a marathon,” he said. “I think the 83 individual birds is a powerful visual of what happened that night.”

Blumberg says the sculptures specifically are heavy, hot, and loud like a marathon. He was spending Sunday at Side Creek Park working on another piece, the Birds of Aurora. A series installation he finished years ago that needed maintenance and repair. He completed the new work for the 7/20 Memorial Foundation that same morning.

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Douwe Blumberg (credit: CBS)

“There’s an unusual sense of responsibility that comes with this project,” said Blumberg. “I’ve done a memorial for a plane crash, I’ve done a 9/11 piece that’s at ground zero, but this is even more personal.”

He did not have a preconceived idea for the piece until he visited the site as a finalist for the commission. He hopes the completed sculpture will be a beautiful work of art that is also intimate to family and friends.

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(credit: CBS)

“This is what I dream of doing as an artist,” he said. “Using my creative gift to impact people and bring beauty to their lives and in this case healing.”

Blumberg said walking away from the sculpture after it is done compares to leaving a child at summer camp. He was not chosen but entrusted by the community to finish this job. The journey of working on the piece for a year has led to personal growth and left an impact on his family and team.

“It will just bring beauty to the world,” he said. “A sense of beauty, a sense of beauty coming out of ugliness, a sense of victory for good.”

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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