Chauncey: Made at CCU
Chauncey the Chanticleer statue was created by faculty and students in the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts; find out how that project brought a new dimension to the department of visual art.
The Making of a Mascot Becomes the Making of a Studio
The 7-foot bronze statue of Chauncey, the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleer mascot installed outside the TD Sports Complex, is an imposing figure. He’s tough. He’s mighty, tenacious and just a little bit playful -- a symbolic marker of CCU’s rising national profile. However, fewer people know that Chauncey’s creation was the result of an agreement between the visual arts department and CCU athletics that allowed the statue to be built in-house; simultaneously, it provided new opportunities for faculty, students and arts curriculum.
The conception began when CCU President David DeCenzo visualized a sculptural mascot to reign over the projected sports complex. Originally, the plan was to hire an outside agency to complete the project, but as he and Athletic Director Matt Hogue explored their options, “it finally became a no-brainer: We have this program right here under our fingertips. Why not use it?” Hogue said.
DeCenzo and Hogue met with Visual Arts Department Chair Arne Flaten to develop a commission project, and as the concept moved along, the group contacted Logan Woodle, sculptor and CCU assistant professor of visual arts, to design and create Chauncey.
“The athletics and administration’s main priority was that we were treating the school with respect and delivering something that spoke to the school’s personality and goals,” Woodle said. In conceptualizing the noble creature, Woodle’s challenge was to portray numerous impressions simultaneously: “Logo, mascot and tradition—those developed the narrative.”
Woodle spent a long time considering how to tangibly represent CCU spirit through a bronze rooster. “We have the historical idea from The Canterbury Tales of this mischievous creature; we also have the idea that the Chanticleer was a French soldier, specifically a foot soldier, which was involved with Francis Marion—the Swamp Fox—which brought this idea of fighting and power,” Woodle said, “yet it was more of a sleek, artful approach—something nimble and fast. And I thought, that fits in with the school idea that we’re a fairly small school, but we keep sneaking into the right places at the right time and building footholds.”
Hogue agreed with the blending of attitudes fierce and playful. “We wanted to do something that we felt would be more animated,” he says. “We wanted it to have more personality, and that’s how we arrived at the standing pose with the dukes up.”
Woodle created a 17-inch maquette of the statue and produced it at a meeting between athletics and the art department. At that point, he says, “Everybody breathed a sigh of relief, and we all knew we were headed for the same thing.”
There was just one catch. The art department, with its resources all housed within one large studio room, lacked the facilities and equipment to create a statue of such size and scale. In order to produce the sculpture, it would need materials, including a forge furnace for casting, a CNC router for cutting hard metals, kilns and a covered space to contain it all.
Over the next 18 months, the university purchased and installed the equipment required to make Chauncey a reality. As the materials came in, Woodle worked with colleagues, including Assistant Professor of Visual Arts Alexandra Knox and Teaching Associate Cat Taylor, as well as a select group of students, to complete the complex processes of molding, waxing, casting and welding that would yield the bronze statue.
Woodle explained, “One of my goals for my life is to found a metals program and to actually be able to see the students lay their hands on a significant project.” He recruited a “core class of five students, who had real hands-on participation. They were involved in refining the modeling, texture and detail.” This core class also helped through the entire mold-making process, and they assisted with the bronze casting as well.
The addition of sculpture equipment not only allowed CCU faculty and students to collaborate on the Chauncey project, but it also permanently upgraded the university’s sculpture program.
“This has been a game-changer; there’s no other way to put it,” Woodle said. “Now we’ve got something where students can see large-scale sculpture and make large-scale sculpture. They have a hands-on application, and they’re casting in their first sculpture class. I never had the occasion to cast in all of undergrad. For the program to go from zero to sixty like that in one project was so exciting.”
Flaten called this “the first step of a movement on this campus toward getting more public art.” The new facilities not only make public art possible, but Flaten said, “[the facility] immediately elevates the stature of the program, substantially expands the kinds of things we are able to do and revives the sculpture program, all in one major event.” Also, as it is the department’s hope that these facilities will bring a new appeal to the art studio major at Coastal and that the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts will continue to generate large scale sculptural art for the campus and community.
Chauncey will enjoy nationwide exposure in the coming months and years during televised baseball and football games, becoming an iconic symbol of the CCU campus, while the university’s sculpture program will continue to thrive with its Chauncey-sponsored facilities. For both branches of the university, the future is wide open.
As Woodle says, “I can’t wait to see where we go next.”