More than two dozen artists’ proposals for animal sculptures to be installed along Cameron Park Drive moved on for consideration by prospective donors and the Waco City Council after unanimous approval from a Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission on Thursday.

Seven commission members voted to approve 27 proposals submitted by arts nonprofit Creative Waco. Two Creative Waco panels whittled down 45 submissions coming from as far as Australia and Canada to create the short list presented to the commission.

The “Sculpture Zoo” public arts project marks the Cameron Park Zoo’s 25th anniversary this year. Waco’s Clifton and Betsy Robinson have agreed to donate $150,000 to buy several sculptures and are offering an additional $150,000 in matching funds for other donors.

The Robinsons previously gave more than $1 million for the “Branding the Brazos” Chisholm Trail tribute that populates Indian Spring Park with 25 bronze longhorn cattle and three trail drivers, sculptures crafted by Texas sculptor Robert Summers.

Creative Waco executive director Fiona Bond provided the advisory commission with brief artist and proposal information plus related images for each of the 27 proposals at the commission’s meeting Thursday. That information will be put online later and will be shown to potential donors before the Waco City Council meets March 6, Bond said. The council at that time will consider giving the go-ahead for a number of funded sculptures.

Of the 27 proposals that passed initial technical and artistic screenings, three were from Waco, 15 from other Texas communities, six from other states, two from Australia and one from Canada. The three Waco artists represented were Rolando Saenz, Robbie Barber and Bryant Stanton.

Suggested animals ran the gamut found in most zoos of comparable size to the Cameron Park Zoo, with some species, such as a hippopotamus, not presently in the Waco zoo. Several are designed to encourage interaction and play, with each proposal evaluated for durability and safety.

Cast bronze was the predominant medium, but artists also offered works done in steel tubing, limestone, granite, stainless steel, powder-coated steel and treated concrete. Most projects are life-size for larger animals and one and a half times the size of smaller ones. Suggested sculpture prices, dependent on final design, scale and transportation needs, generally range from $10,000 to $50,000, with the highest suggested price of $145,000 for a baby white rhino in bronze.

The geographical range and cultural diversity of entries speaks to a growing appreciation of Waco among artists, Bond said.

“They hear that Waco is a rising star in the art world. That’s really gratifying to hear,” she said after the meeting.

Project organizers will seek donors to buy additional animal sculptures from the approved list, adding to those already underwritten by the Robinsons and Waco businessman Paul McClinton. Should individual and group donors raise $150,000 to equal the Robinsons’ matching pledge, the Sculpture Zoo could have almost $500,000 to work with. That could translate into a dozen or more animal sculptures at various points along Cameron Park Drive near the zoo’s entrance, Bond said.

Sculptures that get city council approval March 6 are expected to start being installed by the fall.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

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