Bronze statue brings more than pride to CCU campus
The 7-foot bronze statue of Chauncey, the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleer mascot, is an imposing figure outside the university’s newly built TD Sports Complex. He’s tough. He’s mighty, tenacious and just a little bit playful. Unveiled to the public last fall, he is a symbolic marker of CCU’s rising national profile, especially in the area of athletics, as the university prepares to join the Sun Belt Conference.
However, Chauncey’s underbelly reveals an equally compelling story. His creation was the result of a mutually beneficial agreement between CCU Athletics and the Visual Arts department that allowed the statue to be built in-house; simultaneously, it provided new opportunities for faculty, students and department curriculum. As CCU artists were building Chauncey, Chauncey was building the Visual Arts department.
The conception began about three years ago when CCU President David DeCenzo visualized a sculptural mascot to reign over the projected sports complex. Originally, the plan was to hire an outside agency to complete the project, but as he and Athletic Director Matt Hogue explored their options, “it finally became a no-brainer: We have this program right here under our fingertips. Why not use it?” Hogue said.
DeCenzo and Hogue met with Visual Arts Department Chair Arne Flaten to develop a commission project, and as the concept moved along, the group contacted Logan Woodle, sculptor and CCU assistant professor of visual arts, to design and create Chauncey.
“The athletics and administration’s main priority was that we were treating the school with respect and delivering something that spoke to the school’s personality and goals,” Woodle said. In conceptualizing the noble creature, Woodle’s challenge was to portray numerous impressions simultaneously: “Logo, mascot and tradition—those developed the narrative.”
Woodle spent a long time considering how to tangibly represent CCU spirit through a bronze rooster. “We have the historical idea from The Canterbury Tales of this mischievous creature; we also have the idea that the Chanticleer was a French soldier, specifically a foot soldier, which was involved with Francis Marion—the Swamp Fox—which brought this idea of fighting and power,” Woodle said, “yet it was more of a sleek, artful approach—something nimble and fast. And I thought, that fits in with the school idea that we’re a fairly small school, but we keep sneaking into the right places at the right time and building footholds.”
Hogue agreed with the blending of attitudes fierce and playful. “We wanted to do something that we felt would be more animated,” he says. “We wanted it to have more personality, and that’s how we arrived at the standing pose with the dukes up.”
Woodle created a 17-inch maquette of the statue and produced it at a meeting between athletics and the art department in May 2014. At that point, he says, “Everybody breathed a sigh of relief, and we all knew we were headed for the same thing.”
There was just one catch. The art department, with its resources all housed within one large studio room, lacked the facilities and equipment to create a statue of such size and scale. In order to produce the sculpture, it would need materials, including a forge furnace for casting, a CNC router for cutting hard metals, kilns and a covered space to contain it all.
Over the next 18 months, the university purchased and installed the equipment required to make Chauncey a reality. As the materials came in, Woodle worked with colleagues, including Assistant Professor of Visual Arts Alexandra Knox and Teaching Associate Cat Taylor, as well as a select group of students, to complete the complex processes of molding, waxing, casting and welding that would yield the bronze statue.
The finished product has received rave reviews from students, the public and the department that commissioned it. “This was not the easiest mascot to make,” Hogue said, “and to see the personified brilliance of what they’ve accomplished is really impressive. They nailed it.”
The addition of sculpture equipment not only allowed CCU faculty and students to collaborate on the Chauncey project, but it also permanently upgraded the university’s sculpture program.
“This has been a game-changer; there’s no other way to put it,” Woodle said. “Now we’ve got something where students can see large-scale sculpture and make large-scale sculpture. They have a hands-on application, and they’re casting in their first sculpture class. I never had the occasion to cast in all of undergrad. For the program to go from zero to sixty like that in one project was so exciting.”
Chauncey will enjoy nationwide exposure in the coming months during televised baseball and football games, becoming an iconic symbol of the CCU campus, while the university’s sculpture program will continue to thrive with its Chauncey-sponsored facilities. For both branches of the university, the future is wide open.
As Woodle says, “I can’t wait to see where we go next.”
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY