By Maddy Mendoza
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
The biggest Cardinal on campus is massive and made of bronze. And it’s nestled near Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium.
Like many University of the Incarnate Word students, Jay Perez was surprised to see the new addition of the statue when he returned to school this fall.
“I was pretty shocked to see it the day I moved back in,” said Perez, a communication arts major concentrating in journalism. “It’s awesome. I’ve already taken pictures by it. It’s about time we have something like that.”
Mark Papich, director of athletics, said the statue is a symbol of the university’s growth, specifically the transition from Division II to Division I.
The bronze cardinal was installed June 27, just in time for the July 1 celebration which welcomed UIW into the Southland Conference. The conference will oversee and assist in the four-year shift expected to result in UIW becoming eligible for NCAA Division I events beginning the 2017-2018 academic year.
Larry Stevens, owner of Stevens Art Foundry, approached the university with a proposition to create and sculpt the statue, Papich said. Stevens is also the artist behind the bronze pieces in front of the Wellness Center and other places around campus.
The Stevens Art Foundry has been “molding clay into metal” more than 40 years in Bulverde, Texas, according to the company’s website. The foundry is full-service, specializing in bronze but also creates silver and metal works. Only 100 percent silicone molds are used to create the sculptures. Although there are less-expensive alternatives, the silicone option allows sculptors to reproduce pieces with the finest details possible. A lengthy 11-step process went into creating the 1,800-pound bronze sculpture.
“He’s got a good group of people,” Papich said. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of dirty work,” he added about the foundry and the process. “Larry and his group did a phenomenal job.”
But before the casting and sculpting process began, the design of the statue had to be thought out.
“I actually was involved in going up and reviewing a lot of the work that was done from the initial foam state,” Papich said. “We looked at probably 15 to 20 variations in clay.”
One of the biggest questions in the initial design process was whether the sculpture should be created to look like the school’s mascot or an actual cardinal.
“We had a couple of areas where we’d set them up and people would look at them and make comments. And we slowly narrowed them down to about three variations,” Papich said.
The new statue is not only a shiny indicator of growth for UIW, but according to Papich, it is hoped the statue will help build traditions and perk interest. “It’s hard to get students to get out of the dorms to come to games and events,” he said.
Asked if any tradition is being created in line with the statue, Rick Smith, an assistant athletics director who oversees the spirit team that includes the mascot, cheerleaders and dance team, replied: “Traditions are hard to create. Most of the time, traditions simply happen. We are hoping that students will rub the statute on their way into the stadium for good luck, and hope that it can become a tradition.”