Something big is coming to Palestine.
Three-foot bases made of railroad wheels have popped up in Palestine this week to commemorate the arrival of a 500-pound, 7-foot tall permanent statue and subsequent sculptures that will be part of an upcoming outdoor art walk.
The sculpture “Forging History,” is the first of its kind to make a permanent residence in Palestine in 100 years — when the John H. Reagan statue was erected in Reagan Park.
Set for an unveiling at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, the bronze statue by Texas native Dale Montagne depicts a railroad man in action as he probably looked in 1872, when the railroad made its arrival in Palestine.
It was commissioned by Palestine Tomorrow, Inc., a sub-fund of the Texas Area Fund Foundation Inc., formed in hopes of improving the city’s quality of life through facilitating arts and improving parks.
“The statue was paid for with public donations from Palestine Tomorrow and members of the community,” PTI board member Mary Jean Mollard said. “The Union Pacific Railroad donated 30 railroad wheels for the bases and City of Palestine workers have welded the bases and placed them.”
The statue will be erected in front of the Palestine Visitor Information Center (depot), located at the corner of Spring and Oak streets. It is part of a permanent fixture in what Palestine Tomorrow members are planning to become a Railroad Heritage Park.
“Other bases, just like the one the railroad statue will sit on, will feature artwork from artists both locally and from all over the country,” Mollard said. “They will be featured there for a year and rotated in and out.”
Montagne, who currently lives in the Colorado Rockies near Breckenridge, began the process of creating the “Forging History” statue by first sketching from a live model, then creating a 14-inch tall maquette (a small preliminary model) of the sculpture.
Over the subsequent six months, Montagne made the life-sized original out of steel frame and foam and finally “skinned” it with a detailed clay. A rubber/silicone-like coating was applied to make the molds before they were sent to a foundry to be cast into bronze pieces.
“Now that those molds have been made and cast into bronze, I am in the process of reassembling (welding) the 500 pounds and 32 pieces that create the whole bronze sculpting,” Montagne said.