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UTTC students design Thunderbird sculpture for City of Bismarck
17 June 2004

BISMARCK, ND - Bismarck's newest public sculpture planned for a popular location by the Missouri River will be a Thunderbird, a powerful American Indian spirit in the form of a bird.

      Students and staff of the Art/Art Marketing Program at United Tribes Technical College will design and construct the three-dimensional image for the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. It'll be the first of six public sculptures that the college's art students will create for the city.

Director Wayne Pruse and student Jamie L. Ducheneaux
One of the UTTC students working on the Thunderbird project, Jamie L. Ducheneaux (Standing Rock), at right, helps Art/Art Marketing Director Wayne Pruse as he points out the site for the Thunderbird sculpture in Bismarck, ND.

      "This is an exciting project for our students and the city," said Wayne Pruse, Director of the UTTC Art/Art Marketing Program. "There's plenty of room in Bismarck for more public art. Having students involved in creating it is a great opportunity that can launch an artist's career."

      The design is a four-sided, larger-than-life bird emerging from a thundercloud with head and talons thrust forward. The sculpture will measure 20 feet wide by 14 feet tall. Its location will be Keelboat Park off Bismarck's River Road near the Grant Marsh Bridge.

      The Bismarck Park Board voted unanimously at its June 17 meeting to support the project.

      "This is an opportunity for the city to enhance the riverfront, attract people to the area and bring us more pieces of public art, like you see in large cities," Parks Director Steve Neu told the Board. "I think it could bring some notoriety to Bismarck."

      According to research by UTTC students, the Thunderbird is a spiritual messenger in tribal cultures, different than living birds of prey such as eagles and hawks. Thunderbirds represent the sacred power that produces thunder and lightening. The image is present in the cultural art forms of many tribes. Students from six different tribes will be working on the project.

      "Students have been involved in the design and they'll be involved in the work too," said Pruse. "It' a step-by-step learning process."

      According to Pruse, the Thunderbird will be made, as many of the new public sculptures around the country are, from structural foam, which is cost effective, strong and durable. The figure will be crafted outside the Art/Art Marketing Department at UTTC and moved to its permanent site when completed.

      The project will be dedicated in October when Bismarck hosts the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Signature Event.


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