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Thunderbird sculpture dedication set
12 October 2004

BISMARCK, ND - A dedication program for Bismarck's newest public art sculpture is scheduled for Thursday, October 21 at 2 p.m. at Keelboat Park on River Road south of the Grant Marsh Bridge. The new creation is a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts something North Dakotans should be familiar with - thunderstorms.

      Over the summer, students of the United Tribes Technical College Art/Art Marketing Program designed and constructed the image of Thunderbirds, as part of a school project.

Thunderbird Sculpture
UTTC Art/Art Marketing student Jamie L. Ducheneaux by the Thunderbird sculpture that will be dedicated October 21 at Keelboat Park on River Road in Bismarck.

      "Watching them work on this was a thrill," said Wayne Pruse, Director of the UTTC Art/Art Marketing Program. "They worked their hearts out."

      Measuring 15 feet high and approximately 30 feet across, the new sculpture depicts four giant Thunderbirds, with heads and talons thrust forward, emerging from a thundercloud.

      The Bismarck-Mandan Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee supported the project and the Bismarck Park Board commissioned it in June.

      "We've created a partnership for public art with this project," said Steven M. Neu, director of the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. "We know it will enhance the riverfront, attract people to the area and bring some notoriety to Bismarck. We're hopeful it can lead to more public art in the city."

      Plans call for continuing the collaboration with UTTC students to create more sculptures located on park district property along the riverfront trail over the next five years, said Neu. The artistic theme will be the Eagle, a bird frequently seen along the river.

      While the images on this new sculpture resemble eagles, Thunderbirds are considered spiritual messengers in tribal culture and not the same as living birds of prey. According to the UTTC students working on the project, Thunderbirds represent the sacred power that produces thunder and lightening. The image is present in the cultural art forms of many tribes.

      "This was a first rate educational opportunity," said Pruse. "The students learned about preparing proposals and working with funders and contractors. And they learned about working in a new medium that's being used quite a bit elsewhere around the country."

      The Thunderbird was made, said Pruse, as many new public sculptures are, from structural foam, a cost effective, strong and durable substance that easily lends itself to forming and shaping by artists.

      Seven UTTC art students worked on the project in the workshop of Aquatic Delights, a Bismarck company owned and operated by Paul Scherr that specializes in decorative and artistic building and landscape designs. The students are Jamie L. Ducheneaux (Standing Rock), Dustin Black (Spirit Lake), Todd Trottier (Turtle Mountain), Stacey Speedis (Yakama Nation), Brianne McHugh (Three Affiliated), Joaquin Andrews (Fort Peck), and Gilbert Kills Pretty Enemy III (Standing Rock).

      The public program on October 21 will include local and college officials. A Native American drum group will sing an honor song.

      The public is invited to attend. Parking is available adjacent to the location of the new sculpture.


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