CARTHAGE, Mo. —
When it is unveiled Thursday at its Carthage High School home, it will be the end of a long journey for the Carthage tiger crafted by artist and sculptor Bob Tommey.
Tommey envisioned the sculpture and built support for it at football games, Maple Leaf parades and other events.
After the tiger’s creation in Tommey’s studio east of Carthage, there was a trip to a Texas foundry in a refrigerated truck supplied by a Carthage company. In March, the 7-foot-long, 6-foot-tall sculpture was brought back through a Texas snowstorm on an open trailer.
“It turned some heads. Dogs barked at it, and people took pictures,” Tommey said. “I think it would have caused even more of a stir, but the weather was so bad, everyone was having to concentrate on staying on the road and dodging the wrecks.”
Tommey’s proposal to create the tiger sculpture as a feature for the new high school was approved by the school board in June 2007. Completion came nearly three years later, primarily because of the time it took to raise the roughly $50,000 needed to pay for bronzing the work. Tommey’s time and talent were donated, as were fundraising efforts headed up by Sandy Higgins, of Carthage.
“I appreciated so much those who could give anywhere from $1 to $10,000,” Higgins said. “The whole community chipped in, and without it, we never could have done it.”
Tommey said most CHS graduating classes also gave to project, and that artists from the Carthage area and some from Texas donated paintings that were auctioned to raise money.
Higgins noted that stickers called “tiger paws” were sold for $1 at McDonald’s restaurants, and a refrigerated truck was donated by H.E. Williams Co. to take the tiger to the foundry south of Dallas.
A cool ride to the foundry was required because the model for the tiger started with a Styrofoam base and metal supporting rods. The Styrofoam figure then was covered with a wax coating in which the details were carved.
“You start with blocks of Styrofoam glued together, then you draw the image on it and use a chain saw to cut away anything that doesn’t look like a tiger,” Tommey said.
Creating the bronze sculpture from the model and adding the patina — a chemical reaction to color the bronze — took about two months, Tommey said.
The artist, the grandfather of CHS football standout Beau Tommey, said he wished the tiger could have been finished while his grandson was still in school. The economic downturn slowed fundraising for the project. Beau Tommey graduated in 2008, and there is a sculpture of the athlete — ready for bronzing — in Tommey’s studio.
Best known as a Western artist and sculptor, Tommey also created the sculpture of Carthage native Marlin Perkins in Central Park.
Along with Lowell Davis, he is one of the founders of the Midwest Gathering of the Artists, a show and sale event that brings more than 30 artists to Carthage each year.
The unveiling of the bronze tiger is set for 3 p.m. Thursday near the flagpole on the west side of Carthage High School, 2600 River St. The tiger is the school’s mascot.