Two sculptures, remnants of what was once a memorial tree for the University of Central Arkansas’ World War II veterans, were dedicated in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
In place of the memorial tree, the two sculptures will now carry the torch of remembrance for the university’s 46 World War II veterans.
Outside Wingo Hall, where the tree once stood, is now the Bear Memorial, a life-sized bear, carved from the base of the memorial tree by Gary Keenan. The carving was completed by Keenan, a tree sculptor from Des Moines, Iowa, in May.
Inside Wingo Hall, near the Board of Trustees room, is the Ring of Peace, carved from an eight-foot section of the memorial tree by professor Bryan Massey. The sculpture features 46 incisions to commemorate the veterans.
Massey called the task of creating his sculpture “an important process,” due to the amount of veterans in his family, including his father, a Korean War veteran.
“Veterans have always been close to my heart,” he said.
The original idea was for Massey to carve a bench out of the section of the tree, however, Massey said while carving, the section broke into two pieces.
Massey said he quickly thought of ways to salvage the sculpture, which led him to create the Ring of Peace, described by professor of art and associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication Gayle Seymour as an “oblique, abstract” creation.
“Veterans always want peace,” Massey told the crowd while speaking of his inspiration. “And I like abstractions.”
The sculpture also includes rings, which Massey said represent all branches of the military.
“I hope for many years to come it will help people remember those who serve and give them something to talk about,” he said.
“We hope the Bear Memorial and Ring of Peace will remind visitors that art can serve many functions, including the solemn remembrance of fallen UCA alumni in World War II,” Seymour said in a university release.
The dedication of the sculptures was part of the annual Conway ArtsFest, which began Sept. 27 and runs through Friday in downtown Conway at Simon Park.
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