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After finishing the Winona statue installed in Mrs. Stocks Park in June, local sculptor Heather Tritchka ’98 set her sights on a new project: sculpting aative Michigan animals for an installment at Baw Beese Lake. She will begin sculpting the first animals, a mother black bear and her two cubs, this December and said the finished sculptures will be unveiled in fall 2018.

An image of the future black bear sculpture. Heather Tritchka | Courtesy

“This idea has rolled around in my head for a lot of years, and I spent a lot of time on that walk,” Tritchka said. “So after Winona was done, I said, ‘Yeah, I think it’s time to go after that idea.’”

Although the exact location for the sculptures are yet to be determined, Tritchka said she envisions the life-size bears in an opening off the trail with a couple of benches where parents can sit down while kids interact with the piece.

The mother bear will be standing on her hind legs, her head raised to assess potential danger to her two cubs, who will sit next to her, oblivious to any bystanders.

“I want the momma bear to be looking down the trail so that if you’re walking along the trail and catch a glimpse of her, you’re like, ‘Oh, what is that?’” Tritchka said. “Then as you get closer, I want the little bears to be interacting and not paying any attention to you and tussling over a berry branch or something cute and cub-like.”

Hillsdale’s recreation department director, Michelle Loren, said planning for the statue is in the baby stages right now, but the statues will be an asset for the city.

“We’re very excited,” Loren said. “That would be a huge addition for the whole park system, and the interactive statues will make the trail even more inviting.”

Tritchka said she plans to sculpt the bears in clay during the winter in a studio space at 42 Union St. donated by Rough Draft, and will have open studio times so the community can see the statue’s progress as Tritchka sculpts the clay.

Rough Draft owner Carly Hubbard ’16 said the idea to donate studio space arose after the Heritage Foundation, which is helping fundraise and organize the black-bear statue project, used Rough Draft as a meeting space while working on the Winona statue project.

“They were just looking for space, and I thought it was a cool way for the community to also be able to see the progress,” Hubbard said.

Tritchka estimated the black bear project will cost $15,000 to $20,000 more in foundry expenses for the statue to be cast in bronze due to the size of the sculptures. Several grants have already been secured for the project, and anyone wishing to contribute to the project can send donations to the Heritage Association through P.O. Box 168.

Over Labor Day weekend, Tritchka and her daughters visited Oswald’s Bear Ranch in the Upper Peninsula, where Tritchka observed how black bears move and interact with their environment. Tritchka said they were able to pet a cub and throw apples to fully grown bears.

“I wanted to see how they move and what it looks like so the statue’s gestures are realistic,” Tritchka said. “I’ve been doing a lot of bear anatomy research just to make sure I get the orientation of the joints, and what their shoulders are doing when they stand up on their back paws.”

Tritchka said community members are welcome to stop in and talk with her once she begins the sculpting process in her studio space in December.

“Everyone’s welcome to stop by Rough Draft and watch the progress,” Tritchka said. “If they want to help slap on clay, that would be great.”