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On the prowl
Noted sculptor David Alan Clark, who created the statue of Tom Lee near the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis, is designing a bronze statue that will be permanently placed near the front of the University Center.
Noted sculptor David Alan Clark, who created the statue of Tom Lee near the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis, is designing a bronze statue that will be permanently placed near the front of the University Center.

Rubbing a rabbit’s foot brings luck, so why wouldn’t rubbing a tiger’s paw do the same? A new tradition for luck is coming to the University of Memphis, but it first has to travel 1,400 miles to get here.

When the bronze statue of TOM makes the journey from Lander, Wyo., to the U of M, the University community is invited to participate in the traditions of rubbing the tiger’s front paw for luck or posing next to the statue for a photo in cap and gown.

These traditions will begin once the statue is unveiled during “Alumni Reunion Weekend” on April 20, 2012.

Sculptor David Alan Clark, who is also known for creating the Tom Lee Park bronze rescue-scene statue, developed the idea for a regal Bengal statue with the guidance of the Bronze Tiger Committee.

“My interpretation (of the committee’s wants) was to put the tiger on an inclined surface so it is metaphorically climbing, reaching and achieving,” Clark says. “It’s a distant metaphor for education where you set goals and the lifelong learning process. The University starts and helps that process.”

Bronze casting requires molding a 24-inch wax version, enlarging it to a foam model and covering that with clay. Clark’s local foundry will create the bronze panels and weld the 40 pieces. The 1,000-pound statue will travel by flatbed truck to the U of M where it will sit atop a triple-tiered crescent base in front of the University Center’s main entrance, adjacent to the future Centennial Alumni Mall.

The statue is entirely funded through private gifts. Donors of at least $100 toward the initiative will have their names inscribed adjacent to the sculpture. The University will recognize donors of $10,000 or more on the sculpture itself. The campaign will end in early January.

“Forever is a long time, but there really is not an end date on this type of artwork,” Clark says. “TOM the tiger could easily be around in 2311.”

— by Laura Fenton

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Last Updated: 1/23/12