Chealsea Weeks, Contributing Writer

Three new bison sculptures, in a charging position, designed and created by artist Bill Secunda, were delivered to campus last week.

The artist of these sculptures is Bill Secunda from Butler Pennsylvania.

Alyssa Sperrazza / The Bison 

Secunda started welding during his junior year of high school, where he started taking welding classes at night at a local community college.

“It was a new program that Pullman Standard, a local railroad car manufacturing plant, and Butler County community college worked together on,” Secunda said.

“It was a program where the students would learn metallurgy, blueprint reading, drafting, etc.”

One of the most unique aspect of Secunda’s art is that he uses welded masonry nails to create a lifelike sense to his iron sculptures.

“I started using nails for sculpture about 14 years ago when trying to come up with a way to build a realistic looking bear,” he said.

“I knew what I wanted the bear to look like and that a single nail could look like a single strand of fur,” Secunda said.

Secunda has created magnificent sculptures that is shown in Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Zoo and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. 

So how did OBU come across such a talented artist?

OBU reached out to Katie Decker-Erickson, certified color consultant and interior and exterior designer, from ColorWorks LLC for assistance in finding the perfect sculptor.

“When OBU first approached us about this project, we talked about the general idea and vision of this really important corner,” Decker-Erickson said.

“In doing so, the mascot was a focal point and we zeroed in on finding artists that could capture the speed, agility and strength of the bison.  We narrowed the field to a handful of artists and shared the vision with them.  We then asked them to create a mock-up and narrative to accompany their proposed piece for this very specific location,” she said.

“Finally, the university chose a committee to evaluate the submittals and Bill’s was the winner.”

It took Secunda 60,000 nails and over a year to create the three large bison in charging stance.

The one aspect that motivated Secunda to create such a powerful sculpture was the relationship OBU had with the Shawnee community.

“When bidding the project, we were given a lot of information about Oklahoma Baptist University and the history of the town [Shawnee],” he said.

“When I found out the town [Shawnee] was often referred to as Bison Hill, I knew what I wanted to do. Knowing the town [Shawnee] and Oklahoma Baptist University had a close relationship and OBU ‘s commitment to their students to help them excel in their future careers,” Secunda said.

Secunda named the sculpture Virtus, which means to have character and courage to follow one’s dreams.

“Every time the students of OBU pass by that sculpture I hope it serves as a reminder that as they charge headfirst into life; they have their family, friends, university and community at their side. Even when they’re alone they can still kick butt because they’re tough as nails,” Secunda said.

Although subtle at times, art can have large impacts on people’s lives.

How fortunate are we to be blessed with such encouraging artwork around campus.

“I hoped it would serve to inspire, and how awesome it would be that at the end of my life I could see it was one of those little things that helped someone achieve greatness. A true reward,” Secunda said.

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