L.E. “Gus” Shafer is best remembered for his bronze sculptures of Old West cowboys, but a new abstract piece inspired by the artist was dedicated Tuesday outside Barton Community College’s Shafer Art Gallery.
“Winged Aspiration” rises like a bronze flame from a pedestal surrounded by limestone blocks. Gallery Director Dave Barnes said some people have told him the piece resembles a flame; others see a bird in flight – or maybe just a wing or a feather. “Somebody said it looked like a big blade of grass,” he said.
Christian Lamoureaux, the art teacher at Hoisington High School, came for the dedication and noticed the sculpture resembled some of the catalpa tree seed pods scattered around the Barton campus. She picked up several pods, which may inspire an organic project for her students.
In the 1970s, Shafer produced a series of images in wood and wax as models for a future monument – or, Barnes might say, for a monument to the future.
“For Gus, flight equaled hope,” Barnes said. For college students walking up the path to the Fine Arts Building and the Shafer Gallery, the sculpture will be a focal point. As one description in the gallery notes, the elegant winglike abstract form pulls the viewer’s eye upward to the sky and toward infinite possibilities. The allusion to flight also connects the college’s Fine and Performing Arts students with the message to aspire, and pays tribute to the winged migrations of waterfowl that are indicative of this region.
“Winged Aspiration” was created by Ellinwood sculptor Aaron McCaffery, who used a 3D scanner to study the model he would eventually enlarge and reproduce as a 14-foot-tall, 900-pound bronze.
McCaffery said he never took an art class in high school, but while attending BCC he worked at the Shafer Gallery for three semesters. That, and taking a ceramics class taught by Bill Forst, inspired him to learn more about art. His rustic metal sculptures were featured at the Shafer Gallery in 2013.
Great Bend artist Chet Cale carved the word “ASPIRE” in four of the limestone blocks, bringing in 24,000 pounds of stone for the base of the sculpture. “They were freshly quarried for this job,” he said. Cale is best known at the artist who created “The Gift,” the Jack Kilby memorial sculptures in front of the Barton County Courthouse.
Nancy Wiebe, director of institutional advancement at the college, noted that the money for this and other recent projects overseen by the Barton Community College Foundation were thanks to an unrestricted gift left by Bill McKown, who died in 2014. Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said it is a gift the community will enjoy for years to come.
A plaque for the sculpture notes the artists, and patron of the arts McKown. It states, “It is a reminder that the goal of Barton Community College is to equip students to soar.”