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Critters coming to Conway from CCU

by Fernandes

Also by Chelsea Thomas

Downtown Conway will soon be home to some new critters. This past spring, Coastal Carolina University visual arts students Erin Ryan, Chris Kunk and Brittany Clark helped to design and create eight bronze statues that will be a part of a sculpture scavenger hunt in downtown Conway early in the fall of 2017. The sculptures, known as the Conway Critters, will be located at prominent Conway locations, such as the Waccamaw River Memorial Bridge and the Conway Town Clock.

The goal for both Conway and CCU is to highlight the city through a display of public art and to promote the value of diversity in the City of Conway through a host of characters with different skills and personalities.

City Councilwoman Jean Timbes first imagined this project as Conway’s version of the Mice on Main scavenger hunt in Greenville, S.C. Her grandchildren, Kate and Anna, illustrated the coloring book that guide participants on a tour of historic Conway sites, during which they meet a host of unique, lovable critters including Maggie the Squirrel, Gaston the Frog, Augustus the Alligator, Sweet Pea the Rabbit and Beauregard the Bear.

“We wanted the hunt to attract children to downtown Conway in locations we want people to see,” says Timbes.

The first conversations for collaborative efforts between the city and CCU to bring art walks to Conway began after the completion of the bronze Chauncey statue in 2015. Easton Selby, associate professor of visual arts and chair of the Department of Visual Arts, acted as a liaison between the department and the city after Timbes and Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy proposed the Conway Critters project.

“When I became department chair, one of the things I wanted to focus on was collaboration with the city,” says Selby. “As a department, we can do a lot of great things, but we haven’t yet done much outside of the University.”

Timbes provided her creative input to the CCU team, which is under the direction of CCU assistant professor of art Alexandra Knox, specifying that the statues be whimsical and appealing to children, but Selby says the city placed a lot of confidence in the ability of the students to bring the critters to life.

The students were as enthusiastic as Selby to have the opportunity for their work to be installed in downtown Conway.
“It honestly feels a little surreal to have my work publicly displayed,” says Kunk, who was responsible for the designs of the alligator, the rabbit and the bear. “It has been my life’s ambition to be a working sculptor, and I am starting to see my efforts pay off.’”

The free hunt will begin at the Conway Visitors Center, which was previously the historic New Deal-era Conway Post Office, where children and their parents pick up the coloring storybook. From there, they will follow the rhyming clues through the downtown area to a treasure.

Though no date has been scheduled for the unveiling of the completed critter statues, the project has already been deemed a success by Timbes and Conway City Council, who appreciate the students’ hard work and dedication.

“The project has great significance in relation to art in public spaces, students learning how to create commissioned pieces of work for a client and the future of the sculpture program,” says Knox. “It offers the Department of Visual Arts an incredible opportunity to create a strong relationship with the city. We look forward to building the art scene within downtown Conway in the future.”

Fernandes is a graduate students in CCU's Master of Arts in Writing program, and Thomas graduated from the program in May.

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