Hot Fun in the Summer Time

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on August 3rd, 2011

Museum purchase with funds provided by 
Nan Schaffer and Julie Kreiner

In 1995, The Heavyweight, a life-size bronze hippo by Burt Brent was the sixth large-scale sculpture acquired for the Woodson Art Museum’s garden and quickly became a visitor favorite. I suspect there are two reasons for its popularity. One, most certainly, is its endearing pose. The huge animal appears to have collapsed into the mud, perhaps to escape the heat of the day, or maybe from its immense weight. Another, and I imagine the most appealing factor, is that it’s the single sculpture that can be touched. In fact you can sit on it, slide down it, stare into its soulful eyes, or just feel its texture and folds.
If you ever have shared these experiences you already are aware that at certain times of the day, the metal absorbs the heat of the sun and gets very warm – perhaps too warm. I cannot say it better than the attractive sign placed near The Heavyweight.
“Hi, I am a happy hippo. I love sunshine but it makes me very hot. My tent helps me stay cooler. Moms and dads, please touch me first to make sure I’m not too warm for your little ones to sit on.
PS I am the only sculpture at the Museum that can be touched. That makes me special.”
Pop-up tent canopies have shielded the sculpture for several years. While they served the purpose, more attractive alternatives certainly exist. Finding the perfect product, designing the structure, and securing the funding all have been accomplished, at long last.
The newly installed shade structure consists of two sage-colored, trapezoid-shaped sails supported by four curved posts. Not only are the sails pleasing to the eye, the synthetic fabric is long lasting and allows cool breezes to flow, all while filtering 95% of ultraviolet radiation. All that contributes to the goal of reducing the sun-generated heat on The Heavyweight.
Rob Erickson from Wausau Canvas designed the structure. He and his team have the sails in place. But a few tweaks still are necessary to get the maximum coverage and tension on the sails. This should be accomplished in the next few days.
Why not come and see the new shade structure during Family Fest, August 9-16? The week-long art-making festival will be held on the grounds adjacent to The Heavyweight and focuses on developing healthy habits including – exercise, nutrition, sun safety, and creativity – through art. Check out the schedule on our website.
We are grateful that support for the shade structure was provided in part by the Orville and Geraldine Peterson Family Trust of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin.

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