Stillwater News Press

Arts & Entertainment

August 30, 2011

Stillwater artist casts two-time Gov. Henry Bellmon in bronze for Oklahoma State research center

STILLWATER, Okla. — A new sculpture by a Stillwater artist will take its place alongside other artwork in the foyer of the Henry Bellmon Research Center next week.

Oklahoma State University officials plan to hold a dedication ceremony for the research center Sept. 9. The ceremony will include the unveiling of a bronze bust of Henry Bellmon, for whom the building is named.

The Henry Bellmon Research Center is a campus facility designed to promote research across disciplines. The $70 million building represents the largest single portion of the 2005 Oklahoma Higher Education Capital Bond Program. Then-Gov. Brad Henry joined OSU officials to break ground on the building project in 2007.

The building was completed in 2010 as the first of a multi-phase research complex that also includes the renovation of the Physical Sciences building.

Bellmon served as governor of Oklahoma from 1963 to 1967 and again from 1987 to 1991. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1969 and served until 1980, when he chose not to run for reelection. During the months leading up to the 1968 election, Bellmon was named the national chairman of Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. Bellmon held a bachelor’s in agronomy from Oklahoma A&M, now called OSU. Bellmon died in 2009.

Sculptor Lou Hale of Stillwater was commissioned to create the sculpture. Hale said she had been working on the bust for about 16 months. The finished product came back from a foundry last month, she said.

The sculpture is a classic shoulder bust, Hale said, and is larger than life-size. In the sculpture, Bellmon’s head is turned slightly to the left, implying motion. Although it’s subtle, the slight turn has an impact on the overall impression of the sculpture, she said.

“It’s more interesting if there’s a little movement to it,” she said.

The process of creating a bronze sculpture is a lengthy one, Hale said. The sculptor begins by forming a model out of an oil-based clay. That model goes to a foundry, Hale said, where a mold is made. A thin wax is poured into the mold, and a ceramic mold is placed over the wax, a process which takes several weeks in itself, she said.

Once the ceramic mold is prepared, Hale said, foundry workers pour bronze into the cavity. Once the bronze has set, the ceramic is broken off, leaving only the bronze statue.

The sculpture won’t be the only piece of artwork on display in the research center. The office of Stephen McKeever, OSU’s vice president for research and technology transfer, sponsors an annual competition in which artists are challenged to create a piece of art that effectively communicates science to non-scientists. Final judging is held in February during Research Week, and winning entrants are housed in the Henry Bellmon Research Center.

Kelly Green, spokeswoman for OSU’s office of the vice president of research and technology transfer, said the Bellmon sculpture will be located in the southwest corner of the building, near the main elevator bank. Although the dedication ceremony isn’t open to the public, members of the community may view the bust once it’s unveiled, Green said.

OSU officials’ input into the project was mainly limited to working with the Bellmon family to get photos of Henry Bellmon and to make sure the family felt the sculpture accurately captured Bellmon.

“Our desire was to work with the Bellmon family as much as possible,” Green said.

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