Bronze sculptures available for lasting mementos of WBU centennial

Release Date: April 2, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – Rodney Watson has long dreamed of a bronze sculpture to celebrate the hearty souls who braved the frontier of the Texas plains so many years ago. And while it is smaller than he once envisioned, that dream is now reality with the creation of “Pioneer Pride,” a bronze he created in honor of the Wayland Baptist University centennial.

Watson, who serves as the director of the Museum of the Llano Estacado at Wayland, crafted the piece as a fundraiser for the museum and a way to commemorate the spirit of the people who have made the university such a strong entity 100 years after its founding.

He said during his first tour at the Wayland museum back in the 1980s, he was charged with ideas for fundraising to offset costs for museum projects and upkeep. Then trustees asked him to fashion a pioneer statue to grace the outside of Gates Hall. His design sketches were approved but finances kept the project from ever happening.

“In the back of my mind, I’ve always had that idea of the bronze pioneer representing the history of Wayland. With the centennial, I thought it was a perfect time to bring it out as a fundraiser for the museum,” Watson said, noting that he had not done bronze sculptures in at least 20 years. So harkening back to his days as a self-described “starving artist,” he began working on the project once more last summer, starting with a revised version of that original pioneer man. He said there was really no person that inspired the final creation.

“I just create as I go when I’m sculpting,” he said. “I might start with something in mind, then when it gets going, I start reworking it as I go. Especially in 3-D, as you look at things from different angles, you see something that needs to be altered a little.”

The final product depicts a West Texas pioneer looking out over the Caprock by a rock formation, Watson said. The sculpture is about 9” tall and includes a wooden base with a plaque marking the piece’s name.

The process is a lengthy one, beginning with the sculpting from wax in order to make a rubber mold for the foundry. The mold is then filled with wax, covered with a hard metal coating to create a mold for the bronze. Since each piece has a new wax mold poured, Watson said in essence no two pieces are similar.

Watson decided that in conjunction with the Wayland Centennial only 100 pieces would be cast, creating a true limited edition work of art. A casual conversation with local businessman and Wayland board member Max Gabriel in 2008 resulted in the sale of piece No. 1.

“He asked me what I was working on in general, and I mentioned the sculpture. He said he wanted to order the first one right then and there, before he even saw it,” Watson said. Gabriel received his first edition sculpture recently, and since then six more sales have been made.

The pieces will sell for $650 plus tax, with proceeds benefiting general museum improvements, exhibit upkeep and other needs. For more information or to order a piece, contact Watson at (806) 291-3660.

Watson noted that the Gates Hall ornaments designed with help from Nelda Laney are still available for $25 plus tax at the museum, located at 8th and Smythe Streets. Proceeds from that benefit the Hale County Historical Commission, a major contributor to the museum over the years.

In addition, Lubbock artist Eddie Dixon has agreed to make tabletop versions of “The Book” available for collectors as another way to benefit the university. The statue features Wayland founder Dr. James H. Wayland reading his Bible while seated on a rock formation, with his trusty medical bag beside him. A one-and-one-half times life-size version of the statue was dedicated in August 2008 to kick off Wayland’s centennial, located outside Gates Hall in the James and Eva Mayer Foundation Heritage Plaza.

Dixon has made a name for himself in statuary with such works as the buffalo soldier statues in Washington, D.C., and one of late astronaut Eddie McCool in Lubbock among his vast portfolio. But the Dr. Wayland statue is a favorite of Wayland employees and alums since it represents the man whose dream lead to the birth of the Christian college that is celebrating a century of service to the area and beyond.

Tabletop versions of that statue will sell for $750, with a portion benefiting Wayland. To reserve a copy, contact Martha Cross in the Office of Advancement at (806) 291-3425.