WWU Art Professor Grateful for Chance to Create ‘In Gratitude’

Jane Mudd carvingA William Woods University art professor soon will have her artwork displayed in front of a new Columbia, Mo., fire station.


Jane Mudd, assistant professor of fine arts, was chosen last summer to create a piece of public art for Fire Station No. 7, at the intersection of Green Meadows and Green Meadows Circle in the southwest part of the city.


The project is funded by the Percent for Art program, established by the Columbia City Council in 1997 to increase the amount of public art in the community. The program sets aside 1 percent of a city construction project’s budget for site-specific art.


Mudd’s art features a bronze relief sculpture mounted on a masonry wall in front of the new station. Called “In Gratitude,” the piece focuses on the themes of thankfulness and community.


“The 15” by 33” bronze relief depicts a diverse community giving thanks for its firefighters and other public servants,” Mudd said. “The small shallow relief toward the top reflects a number of tableaus: MU’s old Academic Hall, destroyed by fire in 1892 (the Columns are all that remain); a rescue scene, and Mom’s Arcade, which burned down in 1997. The engines change to reflect the different eras.”


The rest of the image depicts a variety of characters and personalitiesMudd's project modeled in a deeper relief. An informal seating area will accompany the wall, allowing the visitor to sit and rest awhile, enjoying the surrounding gardens and newly constructed fire station.


“Although it will be installed on a busy corner, there is too much detail for the motor traffic to absorb,” she explained. “It is an outdoor sculpture that invites a closer look.”


The Percent for Art program is coordinated by the Office of Cultural Affairs under the auspices of the Standing Committee on Public Art. The committee began its selection process by requesting applications from both local and statewide artists.


Once Mudd was selected, she was required to submit a proposal of the actual design to the Commission on Cultural Affairs and the City Council. Public comment also was solicited, and the design was altered slightly as a result of those observations.


After the final design was approved, Mudd spent many hours on the project, working nights and weekends for much of the winter at her house. She brought the artwork to campus in March “to see it in a different light, fine tune it and square up the edges.”


The piece then went to a foundry in Lawrence, Kan., where it went through several stages, from the original plasticine replica to a wax model and then to its final stage—bronze.


“Plasticine is a man-made clay substitute that never dries. Many sculptors today use it for long-range detailed pieces that take a lot of time,” she said.


Mudd called the project challenging.


“I have never done anything quite like this,” she said. “I’ve always had Mudd workingan attraction to sculpture and have done quite a few in my time, but not of this scope. There are a lot of similarities between how an artist manipulates clay and how one manipulates paint, so I felt confident enough to take it on.”


She said her experience with WWU’s Mentor-Mentee program, which pairs students with faculty members for creative or research projects, prepared her and helped her get the commission. One project she and a mentee (as well as many volunteers) completed was a 100-foot mural depicting both contemporary and historical events of Callaway County. It is on the south side of the Movie Gallery building in Fulton.

“I think doing that mural helped. During the presentation, I explained how I dealt with the public, time constraints and budgets, as well as the artistic process. The Mentor-Mentee program is an opportunity for faculty to learn something new to their field and you never know where that newfound experience may take you. To both WWU and to the City of Columbia, I am grateful.”