The Herald Bulletin

February 22, 2012

Walking Man Project is on the go

27 statues have been created and sponsored so far

By Melanie D. Hayes
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — An army of more than two dozen 250-pound, 10-foot-tall steel men stood grouped together inside Mo Fab metal fabrication center, their right feet stepping forward, poised to take off in the same direction.

On their chests of the statues are names like Bill, Frank, Michelle and Bruce. The sculptures have been temporarily named for employees who helped build them.

This summer, though, those steel men, which will be painted and decorated, will be making their way across Anderson, standing guard outside businesses, schools and other facilities.

The sculptures are part of the Walking Man Project, a public art initiative that is well under way.

The project was created by artists Levi Rinker and Laree Blazer, and bringing it to life has been a two-year process so far.

The design of a person on-the-go was chosen because “it’s a symbol of a progressive, forward-moving city,” said Rinker, the project’s executive director.

Mo Fab employees have built 27 steel statues so far, all of which have sponsors, including individual companies, groups of businesses, and organizations, Rinker said. Three more statues will be completed by the end of the week, and he hopes sponsors sign up for those soon.

The 28th statue was lying on a table Wednesday afternoon, set in a wooden mold that Andy McBride uses to weld the pieces together. The body parts for the remaining two statues were stacked around the table, waiting to be pieced together.

McBride, a welder at Mo Fab, said that a team of at least 30 people has helped create the statues, each having different jobs in the process. He spends an hour and a half welding the pieces together for each statue.

“It’s a neat project. It’s something different for the city. It makes me proud to do it,” he said about being involved in artworks that will be publicly displayed.

The statues will be painted and decorated by artists, school students or company employees, Rinker said. The design is up to individual sponsors and can represent companies, services or ideas, or can be abstract, but no business logos are allowed.

Painting and decorating will begin the second week of March through early May. The statues will then be displayed throughout the city, outside of businesses, schools and in public areas from June through September.

The event will culminate with a street festival where the statues will be displayed together, and then most will be auctioned off to support nonprofit organizations, Rinker said.  

The project’s expenses have been covered through sponsorships, grants and donations, and Rinker is among others who have provided their services for free. He hopes more sponsors participate since there are still many bills to pay.

Anderson’s Girl Scout Troop 30226 is one of the many groups who have decided to sponsor a sculpture by raising funds through company sponsorships, donations, their well-known cookie sales, and upcoming garage and T-shirt sales.

Troop leader Skye Huff has been working on potential designs, but it will be the 17 girls in the troop who will paint the statue. They are hoping to place the statue along a city park or trail, where it could remain even after the festival.

The statue will be made to look like a Girl Scout, with a uniform, sash and badges. But it will also have an anti-littering, anti-graffiti theme, Huff said.

The troop chose that theme as its service and awareness project. The girls had considered creating fliers, posters or billboards to advocate against littering, but then worried that those same items would turn into trash and add to the problem, Huff said.

So when Huff suggested getting a Walking Man statue, they all jumped at the opportunity.

“The Walking Man gives us a bold statement, and serves as a tribute to Girl Scouts since this year is the 100th birthday of Girl Scouting in the U.S.,” she said. “We feel very fortunate to be able to leave a lifetime mark in Anderson with our own troop.”

Contact Melanie Hayes: 648-4250 or melanie.hayes@heraldbulletin.com.