Two wood sculptures dedicated, name of bear statue announced after contest

UCA dedicated two sculptures that were carved from a diseased oak tree Oct. 2 in the UCA Board of Trustees Conference Room.

The oak tree was one of several planted in front of Wingo Hall and around campus in memory of fallen World War II veterans.

The two sculptures were designed to continue the honoring of 46 alumni who died fighting in World War II.

Gary Keenan, a wood sculptor from Des Moines, Iowa, carved a life-sized bear from the base of the oak tree.

The bear was given the name “Valor.” The university chose “Valor” after a campus-wide contest to determine what the bear should be named. The sculpture sits outside Wingo Hall where the original tree was located.

UCA President Tom Courtway said “Valor” is the perfect name and the bear “protects our campus as it stands guard, looking out to Donaghey.”

Ring of Peace was carved from an eight-foot section cut from the top of the tree.

Art Professor Bryan Massey carved the sculpture which is displayed in Wingo Hall outside the board of trustees room.

“The school sent out a call for an artist nationwide,” Massey said. “I answered that call and it came down between me and another artist. The committee originally wanted to make a bench out of the wood, but I had the idea for the ring and pitched it to them and it went from there.”

The sculpture features a ring with 46 notches representing the 46 alumni.

Five keys are attached to the bottom of the ring and represent the five branches of the United States Armed Forces.

“My family has served in the Armed Forces from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Massey said. “My dad served in Korea and I had seven uncles serve in Vietnam. I’ve always admired the uniforms and the discipline they had so this idea was an easy one for me.”

Massey said he’s been carving wood and stone for the past 34 years.

“Stone is my usual medium,” he said. “On occasions, I do wood pieces. I don’t do as many as I like because wood is just so difficult to work with. Wood has tendencies to split very easily and actually did when I was carving the Ring of Peace. I managed to salvage it by focusing on wood like I do stone: just carve a piece away at a time.”

Mary Ferguson, a senior at UCA in 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor, attended the dedication.

“It means so much to know that these people, people that I knew, are being honored,” Ferguson said. “It makes me feel good. The ring sculpture is very unique and I think it catches the essence of what we’re trying to do which is honoring those people.”

The dedication of the two sculptures was part of ArtsFest, Conway’s annual festival of music, art, theatre, dance, creative writing and film.

The festival ran from Sept. 27 to Oct. 5.

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