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Cats on parade. . . and then for sale

By Rose Schneider

The Wildcat March, featuring 30 artistically decorated wildcat sculptures, will start Feb. 14 as part of Kansas State University’s 150th anniversary celebration. The creations will be on display throughout the community and on campus until October.

Planning for the nine-month sesquicentennial celebration started two and a half years ago. When someone suggested doing something similar to the creatively painted and decorated cows in Chicago and Kansas City or the horses in Santa Fe the planning committee quickly got on board.

“We have many talented Kansan artists, beautiful scenery and loyal alumni who we wanted to bring together for the sesquicentennial celebration,” said Jackie Hartman, chief of staff and director of community relations at K-State. “This exhibition is a great way to include K-Staters of all ages.”

The 30 fiberglass wildcats statues, which are replicas of Dick Bergen’s bronze wildcat sculpture displayed on the north side of the alumni center, will start their community prowl on Valentine’s Day and be on display throughout Manhattan until homecoming.

Each of the statues has been designed by Kansas artists, architects, photographers and designers who painted and adorned the cats in conjunction with departments, organizations and colleges that chose to pay the $7,500 to sponsor a wildcat in the March.

The KSU Alumni Association sponsored the only wildcat that will have a permanent place on campus. Painted by Susan Cary Meyer, a 1975 K-State graduate of fine arts, it is titled “Thinking of the Alma Matter” and has already made the alumni association’s great room its home.

“We wanted to have a permanent wildcat at the alumni association to display the traditions we hold near and dear to our heart,” said Linda Cook, the assistant vice president of communications for the alumni association.

The alumni association’s wildcat reflects traditions K-State alumni are most fond of. It sports a letterman sweater with buttons and a purple K; a class ring on the paw; an imitation limestone base (the rock many campus buildings are built from); the alma matter on parchment paper; a purple cannon; Bluemont College art; K-Stater magazine cover; and the alumni center. The cat’s sweater and fur is also textured by many layers of paint enhance its realistic nature.

Meyer started painting the piece in November 2012 and delivered it to K-State last week.

“The detail in the cat’s face and fur is incredible. She put many, many hours into it,” Cook said. “It’s a remarkable statue; everyone who has seen it has been amazed by its detail and beauty.”

The alumni association has sponsored another wildcat that will be included in the scholarship auction on Sept. 13. The auction will establish homes for the remaining wildcat statues before the exhibition’s conclusion in October. All proceeds from the auction will go toward the sesquicentennial renewable academic scholarship fund.

“We’re hoping to raise as much money as we can,” Hartman said.

Once the wildcats are released into the community, their locations will be listed on the K-State 150th website so anyone can locate and enjoy them.

“I think it will be a lot of fun for the community and a great fundraiser,” Cook said. “It’s truly an interesting art exhibition; I think everyone will enjoy looking at all of the differently themed wildcats.”

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