Telegram-Tribune reporter Carol Roberts wrote about the creators April 22, 1982 just before it was unveiled for the 50th Poly Royal:
A mustang in bronzeThat money went to Freeman and his foundry crew in Grover City for materials and labor to recreate Harris’s model in bronze.
When a lifesize bronze statue of Cal Poly’s mascot, the mustang, is unveiled at Poly Royal opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. Friday, two people will be prominent in the crowd.
They are Roy Harris, the Cal Poly instructor who sculpted it in clay, and Rick Freeman, the artisan who transformed it into the 750-pound bronze figure that will be displayed on a 93-inch pedestal between the Julian A. McPhee University Union and the Administration Building.
The mustang has served as a mascot for Cal Poly athletic teams and students since the school’s beginning.
The statue was commissioned by the university’s Alumni Association for the a
50th annual Poly Royal.
The association sold 150 bronze mustang miniatures to its members at $1,000 apiece to finance the project.
Harris didn’t receive any money for his work. It was a labor of love for the university where he has taught animal science for 27 years.
The efforts of both men are magnificent and breath-taking, a work of art that defies detailed description and must be seen for its full impact.
Harris, who has a doctorate in animal genetics and “has always been around horses,” has been sculpting in clay for nearly 10 years. His artwork is coveted by collectors and has been displayed in galleries throughout the state.
The mustang was his first attempt at a lifesize animal. And he wouldn’t mind doing it again. “This was an exciting experience,” the sculptor said last week as he and Freeman put finishing touches on the statue.
The two men obviously have had fun completing their artwork and have a great deal of mutual admiration.
“Not many people can do gallery quality bronze,” said Freeman of Harris. “he has an incredible talent with animals. The way he incorporates their natural fluid motion is outstanding,” the foundry operator said.
Says Harris of Freeman: “He’s a perfectionist. He’s good, one of the best in the United States.”
Asked if the mustang had a name, the two men grinned.
“We call him Earl,” said Harris.
Harris has a quarterhorse named Earl who “hung around a lot” at his home in Arroyo Grande during the four months it took to create the large clay mustang.
Harris has always been around horses. Working cattle was his way of life in his youth in Idaho and Utah.
But he describes his venture into the art world a decade ago as “kind of weird.” His sister had a master’s degree in art and “I guess I listened to her.”
He started to whittle on a stick, the tall personable artist said, “until I realized I would starve to death if I kept at it.”
He started sculpting in his studio at home and after awhile found Freeman, who has been casting much of Harris’ work in bronze ever since.
To cast the lifesize mustang, Freeman and his assistants Tom Schrey and Mike Riley, took 50 small plaster moulds of Harris’ clay figure to bronze and then weld back together. The statue is hollow, but indestructible, Freeman said. It also is covered with a patina (chemical) geared to make it appear older and more weathered, he added.
“I think the students and alumni will like it,” said Freeman who joked with Harris about potential response tomorrow.
“If there are a lot of oohs and aahs, we’ll be right up front. If they boo, we’ll just slink away,” Harris smiled.