Sculptors create Special Olympics metal cauldron

It was a combination of experience and a strong work ethic that enabled sculptors Dan Perry and Beth Nybeck to complete a project commissioned for the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games.

Made of steel sheet metal and spun steel elements, their 13-foot cauldron sculpture will serve as the focal point at the opening ceremony and during the six days of games to be held in Nebraska July 18-23.

Special Olympics  CauldronThis undertaking, however, did not come without its challenges, and once Perry and Nybeck received the approval to start on the construction, there wasn't any time to waste. 

Perry, instructor and shop technician in the art department at UNI, said the most challenging parts of the project were the design process and the communication with the client.  The design, initial budget and any changes needed prior approval from the Special Olympics National Games Committee. 

"It took a lot of communication for us to arrive at a design that everyone liked that could be built within the budget and in the allotted time frame," he said.  "This was challenging because project changes of this scale take more time and planning than something smaller, and with so many channels to go through, it took a little longer to get approvals."

Both Perry and Nybeck embraced these challenges, and their dedication and expertise allowed the cauldron project to take shape.

Nybeck, a recent graduate from UNI now working with the Arts Incubator Project in Kansas City, Mo., has worked with metal before.  Although her past experience proved useful, Perry said it was also her work ethic and motivation that helped the project progress.

"Her zeal for the project really helped it come together quickly," he added.

Perry's work as a sculptor has led him to have experiences working in metal and teaching projects in metal, but he hadn't used it for creating his own sculpture before this.  He contributed his knowledge of tools, materials and experience as an artist. 

"This project enlisted a lot of my experiences as an artist not only formally and conceptually but also technically."

While both artists were able to bring different skills to help complete the sculpture, the project also gave the duo something in return. 

For Nybeck, this was her largest project, and according to Perry, it helped her develop technical and conceptual skills as well as gain experience needed for a professional artist.

"I believe she learned quite a bit from working on this project," he said.  "She is a prime example of the type of student that can come out of the sculpture program here at UNI."

Until now, Perry said most of his artwork has been for gallery exhibitions.  The cauldron project is his first large-scale outdoor piece. 

"I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to focus solely on one material that was a little foreign to me so I could broaden my skills and learn another way of making sculpture."

"It is really thrilling to see something start out as an idea or sketch on a scrap of paper and finish as a massive 13-foot, 600-pound, stainless steel object," he added.

Perry and Nybeck traveled to Nebraska for the installation the cauldron sculpture on July 13.  A natural gas flame will be featured in the upper portion of the torch, which will burn throughout the course of the games.  The two will also have the opportunity to attend the opening ceremony and a few events.