$500,000 sculpture traveled from Arizona to Rome

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The Oneida Carry was only one to four miles long. But the new $500,000 sculpture, which depicts it, traveled more than 2,000 miles, from Arizona to its new site in the 300 block of West Dominick Street.

The sculpture was a work of collaboration between StudioEIS of Brooklyn, Taft Design + Associates of Valencia, Calif.; and Bollinger Atelier of Tempe, Arizona. It was paid for by the Oneida Indian Nation, according to Matthew Andrews, deputy director of Rome’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

Federal, state, county, city and other funds totaling another $1.4 million, paid for the new landscaping and streetscaping surrounding the sculpture, he said.

Here’s a look at how, and where, the new 7-foot-by-27-foot sculpture took shape:

StudioEIS of Brooklyn

Debra Schwartz, project director with the Brooklyn firm, said her company sculpted the Oneida warrior, “which was cast in bronze for the Oneida Nation at the West Dominick Street Art Plaza.”

“We were commissioned to create this project” by Taft Design + Associates of California, she noted. “To create the most accurate representation, we chose to collaborate directly with” the Oneida Nation. “Ron Patterson, Oneida Heritage Center manager, who has a deep knowledge of the Oneida culture, joined us at the studio with another tribal member, to educate us on the tribal nation and warrior we were representing. Our goal was to create an authentic pose to convey the story of the tribal warrior. We began by reviewing all details pertinent to the sculpting of this figure: clothing, hair, props, jewelry, beading fabrics, etc. Ron brought replica and authentic clothing, headdresses, belts and other pieces to provide a visible explanation of the historic and sacred moment. His information and knowledge allowed us to use the Oneida member to conduct a photo shoot to establish the final pose for the warrior figure. Following our final selection of clothing and positioning, another Oneida member traveled from upstate New York to the studio” in Brooklyn “for the casting process.”

“Once the model arrived, we recreated the pose in the costume, and took photographs which were used for the sculpting process. While in the selected pose, we made a body cast of the model; his head was later sculpted in clay by a StudioEIS portrait sculptor to represent the Oneida member. 

“The body was built and sculpted to incorporate all of the heritage items and costume. The costume, consisting of a loin cloth, linen shirt, leggings and moccasins, were sculpted on the figure. Additional accoutrements, such as the pipe axe, canteen, native warrior neck piece, sash, among others, were all sculpted by hand in clay representing the actual historical pieces.

“Actual historical photographs were used to sculpt the headdress, and once on the clay head, were sent to the tribal representatives for approval. StudioEIS did consult with several historians about the proper head piece.” The figure weighs about 325 pounds.

“Upon the client’s approval of the clay sculpture, we proceeded to tightly render all details, such as stitching, the look of leather, look of the tools in order to complete the project and prepare the clay figure to ship to the Bollinger Atelier foundry” in Arizona, “for the bronze process.

“Once at the foundry, StudioEIS inspected the sculpture via photographs. At this point the foundry ... coordinated the patination and final finish of the sculpture with the designer.

“It is our hope that the sculpture contributes to the recognition and sacrifices of the Oneida ancestors which is an important priority for the Oneida Indian Nation,” Schwartz concluded.

StudioEIS is known for his historical sculptures, according to its website, and its works are displayed at museums, presidential libraries, sports facilities and other sites.

Taft Design +
Associates, of California

Geoffrey Woodward of Taft Design + Associates (TDA) of California, said his firm “was hired by the Oneida Nation to design (and) art direct the sculpting and installation” of the huge bronze work of art.

“The bronze warrior sculpture and the three bronze bas relief panels took around 12 to 14 months to complete,” he said. “This means from the actual clay sculpting of all items and then casting them and finishing the patina colors.”

“TDA vetted three different companies to provide cost estimates and schedules to then select the final awarded companies,” he noted.

Bollinger Atelier

“The three bronze bas relief panels were designed by TDA and then Bollinger sculpted these panels out of clay,” Woodward continued. “Bollinger had around three to four artisans working on the three bronze panels. StudioEIS sculpted the bronze warrior in New York with our art direction ... utilizing life casting of a Nation member and Oneida costume experts to provide all details necessary ... TDA worked closely with Oneida historians and experts on the story portion, as well as the historical/cultural elements to ensure all design was accurate ... I believe they had two artisans sculpting and completing this effort. The clay sculpture was then shipped to Bollinger in Arizona to have it casted and finished.”

Since Rome is known as The Copper City, did the design firms incorporate copper in this sculpture? “Both companies utilized bronze material to produce these items,” he said. “We did integrate patina copper colors into the bronze sculpted items to tie it into the history of Rome” as The Copper City.

Bollinger Atelier installed all the bronze items, under the art direction of TDA, Woodward said.  

The total cost of designing, making and installing the art work was “around $500,000,” he said.

“The bronze sculptures should last decades and will be maintained to retain the finish and colors,” he added. 

As for the area surrounding the new sculpture, city official Andrews said funding for improvements there were supplied as follows: $640,000 from the state Environmental Facilities Corp., $400,000 from federal Community Development Block Grant to the city, $250,000 from National Grid, $100,000 from the Community Foundation, and $22,000 in in-kind services from Oneida County, for a total of about $1.4 million.

The completed work depicts an Oneida warrior, backed up with three bronze panels. The panel to the left shows a turtle, wolf and bear, representing the three clans of the Oneidas. The panel in the center shows warriors, with an Oneida leader holding a two-row wampum belt symbolizing the agreement to welcome newcomers to the country. The right panel shows Oneidas carrying a boat, from the Mohawk River to Wood Creek -- using The Carrying Place.”

This column was written by Chip Twellman Haley, retired Daily Sentinel news editor, utilizing the Rome Historical Society archive. Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns may be emailed to: chiphaley@yahoo.com. Copies of the books “Rome Through Our History, Volumes I and II,” collections of some of Haley’s columns, may be purchased from the Rome Historical Society.

The Rome Historical Society, 200 Church St., is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, or by appointment. Go online at www.romehistoricalsociety.org, visit their Facebook page, or call 336-5870 for more information.

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