Two children stand silently at the foot of the Cattle Bank sign. The girl gazes toward the flag flying atop the courthouse, her hand on her heart. The boy looks up at her, uncertain what he should do.
The statue, titled “For Which It Stands,” was set June 11. Artist James Haire said the original was commissioned by the town of Itasca, Illinois, in 1995 for its flagpole. The Seward statue is the last of eight made.
The bronze pose wasn’t exactly as he envisioned, but he said children will often tell you what the pose should be.
“When I was photographing the kids who modeled it, the boy didn’t quite get it,” he said, describing the outcome as a happy accident.
Haire, who is originally from Chicago but now lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in painting but started sculpting about 30 years ago, he said. He’s done more than 25 life-size sculptures, as well as monuments.
Many of his pieces are displayed around the country in art-on-the-corner settings, which are exhibits set up in a town for a year and then, if they’ve not been sold, taken to another.
Becky Vahle of Seward saw “For Which It Stands” at an installation in Sioux Falls. Her mother, Virginia Cattle, commissioned the piece in memory of her husband, John W. Cattle Sr.
Haire said children are popular subjects for artwork, and he likes to watch people to get ideas.
“I’ll run out of time before I’m out of ideas,” he said.
Ryne Seaman, president of Cattle Bank, said Virginia Cattle had wanted to do something like this on the corner ever since the building was built 20 years ago.
“I think it is appropriate, given John’s service to his country and community,” Seaman said. “It’s a great piece and will last for generations. It’s a gift the community can enjoy for years to come.”
A sculpture like “For Which It Stands,” takes about six months to complete, Haire said. The first three months are spent sculpting the piece, and the last three are the production end.
“You can’t just grab it off the shelf,” he said.
The original sculpture is usually done in an oil-based clay. When it’s done, the artist makes a mold of the work, which is then filled with wax.
Flaws in the wax are corrected, and sprues are added. A sprue is a funnel through which liquid bronze is channeled.
When the wax is ready, it is shelled. The process requires the wax to be dipped in a slurry and sprinkled with fine sand to capture the detail. The process is repeated until an inch-thick shell is formed, and the wax is then melted and removed.
The shell is then heated and filled with the liquid bronze. Once both are cool, the shell is broken off. The bronze is then sandblasted and a patina is added using a combination of chemicals and oxidation.