This bear sculpture sits with book in hand at the end of the athletic field at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. I wrote the university asking for a brief history of the bear. Herewith the reply from Jim Schneider, the university's public information officer:

"Mr. Johnson,

"The bear statue in Estes Stadium was built during the 1950-51 academic year at UCA, then named Arkansas State Teachers College, and was on the cover of the 1951 Scroll, the institution's yearbook.

"Gene Hatfield, a member of the art faculty in 1950-51, recalled that many on campus felt it was time the college had a statue of its mascot, the bear. In response, Hatfield's craft class took on the project. Class members formed a bear mold of clay and then fashioned a plaster mold over that. The clay was removed and a local concrete company filled the mold with concrete, including the base on which the statue rests. The statue and base, thus, are one piece. The art department furnished material, and Hatfield said the cost, as best he could remember, was minimal.

"The statue was first placed in front of the Administration Building, now Main Hall, by the flag pole. The statue faced east.

"Hatfield said that reaction was varied. Some said it looked like the college's librarian. Some said it was too fat, too squatty, just plain ugly. Some faculty said the art department was forcing its ideas on the rest of the campus without first checking. Others thought it okay, especially since the bear was holding a book. Hatfield said President Nolen M. Irby "took it well," and apparently enough others did as well because the statue stayed. It remained in front of Main for many years, eventually moving to one or two other campus sites before winding up in the football stadium.

"In the beginning it was left in its natural state. Then, the statue became the focus of Arkansas Tech, UCA's strongest athletic rival at the time, and Tech students managed to sneak onto campus from time to time and paint the statue green, Tech's color. After each coat of green, UCA merely painted the statue in one of its colors, purple or gray (silver)."


In the neighborhood: Toad Suck Park

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