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Massive bronze statue at U of Guelph has quickly become a landmark

The Gryphon stands guard.

The University of Guelph’s Gryphon statue, with its impish smile. Photo courtesy of Kamil Bialous.
The University of Guelph’s Gryphon statue, with its impish smile. Photo by Amanda Scott.

An 1,800-kilogram bronze behemoth with talons the size of your forearm – albeit with a charmingly inviting, impish smile – has welcomed thousands of students, parents and camera flashes since its unveiling at the University of Guelph last June as part of the university’s 50th-anni-versary celebrations. The statue, located at the south end of the university, is of a mythical gryphon, portrayed with the body of a lion and the head, talons and wings of an eagle. The university’s varsity sports teams are also called the Gryphons.

Details of the project were kept secret until the big reveal, leaving many people, including Brenda Whiteside, associate vice-president of student affairs at U of Guelph, to wonder how it would be received. The response, she says, has been “phenomenal … It’s taken on a life of its own.”

The Gryphon statue “has now become the kind of iconic piece that people are thinking of when they think about the entrance to the University of Guelph,” says Ms. Whiteside. “It honestly has become a significant mark for the university.”

The sculpture was designed by FASTWURMS, the artist duo of Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse, both faculty members at the university’s school of fine art and music. U of Guelph MFA graduates Nicole Vogelzang and Dustin Wilson also worked on the $300,000 project, funded entirely by donations, primarily from alumni and student groups. The sculpture took six months to research and one year of production and creative work in the studio and foundry to complete.

U of Guelph’s public art has a history of being interactive: Old Jeremiah, a canon, periodically gets a new coat of paint by students, and the Begging Bear sculpture is frequently dressed in impromptu costumes. It appears the Gryphon will be no exception. Ms. Whiteside said students have already embraced a new tradition started at this year’s fall orientation: “Before they start their classes, they will go and pet the Gryphon’s beak for good luck during their next four years.”

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