On Monday, the Madison Area Sports Commission unveiled 85 life-sized fiberglass statues of the beloved University of Wisconsin-Madison mascot, Bucky Badger, as they were placed at various locations around the state’s capital city. The statues are part of the “Bucky on Parade” Public Art Event, scheduled to last through mid-September. But these fiberglass works are anything but the usual Bucky that state residents and athletic fans are used to.
In fact, each of the 85 renditions of Bucky is unique, as customized by their respective artists. One such artist, was Merrill’s Prairie River Middle School at teacher Christy Rasmussen.
“My son graduated from UW-Madison last spring,” the 20-year veteran artist explains. “While attending his graduation, I noticed an advertisement about a ‘Bucky on Parade’ event coming up. It sounded like a fun idea so I followed up with the contact information included in the ad and submitted my application last November. A few weeks later I learned I had been selected to participate, and I was selected by one of the biggest sponsors of the event, ‘Two Men and a Truck’ based out of Madison. I was very surprised!”
Not only was Rasmussen selected to participate in the event (which also will raise funds for the Gard Against Cancer charity established by UW Basketball coach Greg Gard) but she was the only artist selected outside of the Madison-Metro area.
In January, Rasmussen and husband Dale made the trek to Madison to bring the plain-white, 6-foot-tall, 115-pound “Bucky” home and got to work.
Rasmussen named her project “Bucky on Guard.”
“As part of the application to participate in the project, artists were asked to not only name their project but offer a conceptual design of what their Bucky would look like,” Rasmussen explains. “My concept was to use Bucky to showcase the many wonderful aspects and sights Madison has to offer.”
The end result was Bucky being adorned from head-to-toe and front-to-back, with depictions of various Madison area attractions as well as a few creative additions; from a mini-portrait of the Yahara chain of lakes on his left upper shoulder and the capital building over his heart to the UW-Madison Athletic “W” logo over his lower torso. Rasmussen’s creative side is evident with Bucky’s back being mostly covered with a slice of swiss cheese, in the shape of the state of Wisconsin. However, upon closer look, it is yet another creative twist with a touch of “home.”
“I wanted to add something to put a home-like touch to the project so I placed one of the holes commonly found in swiss cheese, to signify Merrill’s location on the Wisconsin shaped slice of cheese,” Rasmussen adds with a smile. “And if you look even closer, you will see another more subtle reference to Merrill as I gently placed the number 49 over that hole.”
The number 49 is of course a reference the number worn by Merrill native Sam Arneson, who played four years of football at UW-Madison as a tight end.
All of the work on “Bucky on Guard” was done inside Rasmussen’s art room at PRMS.
“I didn’t keep track of exactly how many hours went into him, but I can tell you it was hundreds,” she said.
Many nights and weekends were devoted to the project, but Rasmussen also took advantage of the opportunity to use the project in discussing various life lessons with her students.
“They helped a great deal with preparing the statue for painting, but I think the biggest thing they took away from the experience was the many lessons that can be learned when working on a long-term project like this,” Rasmussen said. “The level of commitment and ownership one must invest to see something like this through, for example. We also discussed how opportunities like these don’t come about on their own, it takes motivation and a willingness to put yourself out there and take a chance. As I explained to them; when I applied to participate in this project, I had no idea for certain if I would be selected. I had to take a chance. If I was selected I would be very happy of course and if I wasn’t, I would have been disappointed, but that’s part of life.”
Bucky on Guard proved to be an experience Rasmussen treasures as both an artist and a teacher.
“It was really a lot of fun including my students, and they took it upon themselves to be very supportive with their feedback and compliments every day when they came to class. They would make a point of looking over the new work I had done and would let me know what they think. When it was time for Bucky to return to Madison last month when he was completed, I think we all missed him a little bit. After all, he had been literally a fixture here for three months,” she adds with a smile.
The Madison Area Sports Commission is the producer of the Bucky on Parade event, with support from the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau and in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin Athletics, and Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association. Event proceeds will support Garding Against Cancer, Madison Area Sports Commission and other community charities.