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CCU Atheneum: Logan Woodle poses with his clay creation, the fighting Chauncey sculpture that will grace the new baseball/softball complex.
Logan Woodle poses with his clay creation, the fighting Chauncey sculpture that will grace the new baseball/softball complex.

Chauncey the mascot goes for the bronze

by Mona Prufer
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When Arne Flaten heard that President David DeCenzo was interested in a monumental bronze sculpture of Chauncey for the new baseball/softball complex at Coastal Carolina University, he saw an opportunity.

“We could either commission the piece for $125,000 to $300,000, (plus transportation and materials), which would take 18 to 36 months, or we could do this ourselves with existing facilities and some new equipment. We had the sculptor, so it was very doable,” says Flaten, chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “We could reinvest in Coastal Carolina University and have a top-notch facility for students. We could tie in with Brookgreen’s visiting master sculptor program, offer them the facility and let their visiting sculptors lecture to our students. It’s a win-win any way you look at it.

“Instead of just buying a sculpture, we have elevated the entire program,” says Flaten. “It’s a game changer.”

And so, assistant professor of art Logan Woodle has been busy. He started with a 17-inch maquette (small preliminary model) clay Chauncey in a boxer’s pose with a fierce look and raised fists. This is not a Chauncey to mess with.

From that maquette, Woodle has constructed a seven-foot Chauncey in the identical pose and has modeled and carved him from 350 to 400 pounds of oil-based clay.

“We wanted him to be super-heroesque in the tradition of Batman or Captain America, but with a more universal pose,” says Woodle, who spent a great deal of the summer months in the sculpture studio coming up with the design and putting the figure together with metal pipe, PVC and wire for a structure, spray foam insulation and clay to cover it all. “He’s in the classic Renaissance style, like David, with muscle.”

This well-toned Chauncey the boxer is “a compromise between mascot and sculpture,” says Woodle. “The president wanted Chauncey, not the ‘Canterbury Tales’ barnyard rooster. He wanted the spirit of the athletic logo.”

If all the equipment comes in soon—the forge furnace for casting, a CNC router, kilns—and the structure is built to house it all, Chauncey will be cast in 20 to 24 pieces and then put back together. The right leg back, right leg front, left leg back and front, and so on; then he’ll be welded back together, the seams will be sanded down to a smooth finish, and a protective lacquer will turn the bronze figure a nice brown shade.

Students in the sculpting program—something that Flaten has wanted to bring back to CCU since sitting in the department chair—will provide hands-on help this semester during the entire process with molds, casting, pouring wax.

“Most universities aren’t investing in their arts programs, but CCU is investing in growing its program,” says Woodle, adding, “This has been a dream of mine.”

If all goes according to plan, the bronze Chauncey will be placed in front of the new sports complex and dedicated along with the fields in early February 2015. It will be placed for high visibility, and it’s expected that the sculpture will become to CCU what the Nittany Lion statue is to Penn State. Everyone will want to take a selfie or two with Chauncey. “I mean, we know people will put bras and jock straps and stuff on him, and that’s all part of being a campus icon,” says Flaten.

Woodle, who teaches fine arts, 3D design, metalsmithing and bronze casting, is full of praise for the highly collaborative project that has involved everyone from the president to the chief financial officer to electrical engineers. “He [Chauncey] was not designed by committee, but he has been edited by committee.”

The result is a sculpture that everyone who sees it is happy with, a giant rooster with definite attitude. “We took our standard Chauncey and put him on a diet and sent him to the gym,” says Woodle, a metalsmith/woodworking artist who has been at Coastal for two years. “CCU is a unique in that it has been 100 percent supportive.”

Flaten agrees, beaming as he shows off a three-dimensional rendering of what the West Art Yard will look like with welding/ceramics storage areas, a sculpture yard that will include a furnace area, welding, forge areas, an outdoor enclosure area and ceramic kilns area.

Beyond the Chauncey project, Flaten has big plans for more large-scale projects to follow and talks of the need for public art on this campus. The humanities murals near the Edwards College, he believes, have shown people how elevating and wonderful public art can be.

“There are only a few times in a career when the stars just align to that something really wonderful happens,” says Flaten. “This was one of those times.”

 

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