At the recent photo shoot for the members of The Art and Artists of 614 Facebook page, I had the pleasure of meeting a pretty phenomenal young sculptor and honor student at CCAD named Gavin Bruce. I was so impressed by him and his involvement in an organization named A Kid Again, that I just had to learn more about him, the organization and his work.
Raised in Northwest Ohio in a small old canal town named Spencerville, Gavin was the son of a hard working blue collar construction worker and a stay-at-home mother who loved to make crafts. His professional career began directly out of high school without a degree, eventually working his way into management jobs and racking up about 10 years of experience in the mortgage banking industry before pulling the plug.
While living again with his father in his childhood home and working construction with him, he was determined to reinvent himself and began to pursue a college degree at the local OSU branch. His cousin suggested that Gavin take one of Ed Valentine’s drawing and painting courses because he really enjoyed the class. It didn’t take long before he switched his focus from Environmental Engineering to Art. During this reinvention, he decided that he was looking for a career that left him feeling fulfilled. He wanted to follow a path that added value to not only his life but to the people it impacts. He was inspired to create a lifestyle that allowed him to make art for a living with Mr. Valentine assisting him in organizing a portfolio that was accepted at CCAD.
In his search for an expressive path, he took a sculpture class with Casey Bradly. He found that he wanted to explore his capacity at think three dimensionally after creating a clay bust of himself based on his reflection and photos. “Although my sculpture was not the best or even that accurate, I found confidence in something that I really enjoyed doing. But, I knew at the time that there wasn’t a great demand for this type of work” . However, after working with bureaucracies in banking, he believed that demand on a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource. Soooo… with this new found love of figurative sculpture, he began researching portrait busts and trying to find them throughout Ohio’s capital city.
His explorations led to discovering the Main Columbus Metro Library’s bust of Napoleon by Canova. Amazed that no bust of Andrew Carnegie (whose philanthropic efforts were responsible for construction of the building in Columbus) existed in the facility, he chose to create a bust for the library during his three months of summer break. He also approached the president of CCAD, Denny Griffith, to ask for support in presenting it as a gift to the library when the bust was completed. Gavin states:
Denny, with all the kindness of a great leader, said “Gavin, you have to make it and then we can talk” but he agreed to take a look at it when I was finished. After summer break, Denny looked at it, suggested a few corrections, and invited Pat Lasinski , Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Metropolitan Libraryto come to the school to view it. Soon after, I received a letter from Mr. Lasinski confirming that they would like to receive a bronze copy of the bust as a gift in order to help me raise funds for casting the bust in bronze.BUT before he could begin work on the fund raising process, Griffith approached him with information about an organization called A Kid Again ( www.akidagain.org) that wanted to commission a sculptor for an upcoming project at King’s Island. A Kid Again is a not-for-profit organization that helps children and their families who have been diagnosed with life threatening illnesses. Throughout the year they provide fun adventures for the children and their families to look forward to. During a time when the families can be financially strapped and the siblings have receive less attention, the children are able to enjoy a fun adventure with their family members at places like Kings Island (who has donated over 50,000 tickets to this amazing organization). As a thank you to Kings Island, A Kid Again is presenting the Gabriel sculpture for their amazing generosity. In fact earlier in April, Kings Island helped raise more than $50,000 for children with opportunities to be the first to ride their new Banshee roller coaster. Well, Gavin met AKA President, Jeffrey Damron for lunch and forged not only a partnership but a friendship. He was inspired by Damron’s care and love for the children he helps and quickly realized what an amazing opportunity he was being given. Damron also suggested that Gavin use Gabriel Taylor as a model for the sculpture. Gabriel passed away on December 30, 2011 at the age of 6, after a nearly 2 year battle with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and exemplified the children that AKA wants to help. Under the mentorship of Kevin Conlon, Provost at CCAD, and with the help of his artistic friend Chris Castorano, Bruce began submitting ideas and sketches that were eventually accepted for the final sculpture. The bust of Carnegie was put on the back burner but Gavin Bruce Creative was born! While trying to find a place to build the Gabriel sculpture, he initially secured a space in Junctionview with Christin Hutchinson just weeks before the announcement of it eminent demise. That led him to 400 West Rich Street where he, Eric Shook and Christin Hutchison eventually secured and still have a studio. He also has a display of his sculpting there (Hammer in Hand; at Strongwater Food and Spirits). Artists in this location put him in contact with some of the great shakers and movers of Columbus like Ric Stewart and Walter Herman and created yet another opportunity for Gavin to grow artistically!
Ric Stewart (who I hope to also feature soon!!) provided an amazing opportunity to intern with him at the Cultural Arts Center in downtown Columbus granting an opportunity to improve his sculpting and bronze making knowledge and share with the community some of what he has learned. Ric enabled Gavin’s Wrench-in-Hand to be displayed at the Motorcycle Hall Of Fame Museum in his Two Wheels + Motor Exhibition. Additionally, Ric and the Cultural Arts Center allowed Gavin to donate his skills to create ten 12-inch tall bronze sculptures to assist in the fundraising efforts for A Kid Again.
To see the bronze pour, watch this amazing video!
As Gavin explains the life sized bronze:
My intention was to create a monument that would capture the excitement of youth, an essential right of childhood. In this moment, Gabriel has forgotten the challenges that he deals with daily. In this moment, he feels healthy and happy as he guides his audience towards his excitement. It’s my hope that children will ask questions about this sculpture that will begin a conversation for the adults to address.
Gabriel’s bald head is a reminder of the extremely difficult challenges that exist for these children with life threatening illnesses. With all of Gabriel’s excitement, the ice cream has slipped out of the cone in his left hand. This symbol of loss speaks of the underlying current of the cost of these illnesses. His smiling face calls out and engages the audience as they approach showing that we can always find a reason to smile. I hope that someday this sculpture will stand to represent our ability to have overcome these adversities.
On May 9th at 2:00 AKA and King’s Island will celebrate the unveiling of this tribute to Gabriel and other children who face similar illnesses. How wonderful is that? And what an amazing way for Gavin to begin his artistic career! To learn a little more about this:
Once this is installed, Gavin hopes to get back to working on raising funds to create and cast the Carnegie bust in bronze. He will begin exploring a variety of funding sources, maybe even attempt a Kickstarter campaign. In addition to that project, he will be scaling up a sculpture for Kevin Conlon, Provost at CCAD to memorialize the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home (OrphansHomeOhio.org | A fundraising project of the Home History Fund). Sounds like the summer will be busy for this young man!
And that is not all the future holds for him. At this time next year, he plans to graduate from CCAD. At that point, he is open for whatever synchronicity (and hard work!) provide. Ideally, he would like to pursue international residencies and explore the possibility of obtaining an MFA.
Somehow, I believe that this ambitious and talented sculptor will become a mover and shaker in his own right…I am anxious to see what other commissions come his way. I hope to keep you posted!
Contact for readers:
Gavin Bruce Creative; 614-783-4282; firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the King’s Island Banshee project: