Today@Sam Article

Art Department, City Collaborate To Tell Statue's 'Story'

Sept. 10, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

video still
A still from the student-created video "Building a Legend" creates an animated narrative of the creation of the David Adickes's well-known statue of Gen. Sam Houston, "A Tribute to Courage." The video will be presented during the Film and Animation Student Showcase on Sept. 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Town Theatre, in Downtown Huntsville, or you can watch it below. 

“A Tribute to Courage,” David Adickes’s well-known statue of Gen. Sam Houston, is the world’s tallest statue of an American Hero.

Since 1994, the 67-foot-tall historic figure has greeted drivers along Interstate 45, with many guests asking as they stop by the Visitor Center, “how was that giant statue built?”

The City of Huntsville’s department of tourism and cultural services recently partnered with SHSU’s Department of Art to create a unique way to answer that common question and share the story of how the statue was designed and constructed.  

"Building a Legend"

After exploring animation project ideas with a few professional companies, Kimm Thomas and Jamie Matthews, from the city’s tourism and cultural services department, realized that the answer to finding a team that could meet their needs was right in their own community—at Sam Houston State.

“We had reached out to a couple of different companies about an animated video but had not received the response we were looking for,” Thomas said.  “While attending the art department's gala event, Jamie Matthews approached department of art chair Michael Henderson and explained what we wanted in the way of a video for guests and school groups that visit the statue.  Soon thereafter, we received a call from Willie Williams, in animation, who promised to deliver what we needed.”

Williams, an SHSU assistant professor of animation, led the charge in developing a student team to implement the city’s request. The animation students that he recruited to create the project included Connally Baskett, Paige Beique, Dawson Garza, Andrea Manzano, Christian Pratt, Paige Reans, and Lindsey Whitfield.

One of the team’s first steps in the process was taking a field trip to the statue Visitor Center to meet the staff, visit the statue, document the surroundings, and gather reference materials so they could make the film as accurate as possible. According to Williams, meeting with staff helped the animation team clearly understand the city’s vision for the project.

City Hall
Williams (far right) and his students screened the animation for the Huntsville City Council in May, where the project was met with a standing ovation. —Submitted photo

“The direction that they wanted to go in was a talking cartoon statue explaining how he was built,” Williams said. “They were looking for something geared toward children pre-k through fourth grade. Other than that, the students had full creative control in regards to character design, script, visual development and overall aesthetic of the film. The Visitor Center staff was open to all of our ideas.”

From concept to completion, the final animation—titled “Building the Legend”—took approximately two and a half months. During those two months, the students wrote a script, created storyboards, produced digital assets and computer models, as well as final animation and rendering of the project. The voices of the characters in the film are also animation students.

“The students were involved in all aspects of the production process. It was great to see them dive into this project with passion and create such a great deal in such a short time,” Williams said.

Once the team had a polished animation film, they were asked to present it to Huntsville City Council for final approval. All of the students involved in the project, along with Williams, attended the meeting with City Council.

According to Williams, the presentation was well received by all. 

“Council members were very pleased with the film and gave a standing ovation with an overwhelming amount of support for the project,” he said. “They were very impressed and appreciated the community outreach and involvement that was going on between the art department and the community.”

Since the debut of “Building the Legend” in May at the Statue Visitor Center, Thomas reports that the response from guests has also been very positive.

“Children as well as adults at the Statue Visitor Center seem to really enjoy it,” she said.

"Building a Legend" is currently on view at the Statue Visitor Center located at 7600 Highway 75 South.

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