From the December 2021 Desktop News | Over the past eight years, art professor Craig Wedderspoon and his sculpture students have created innovative and unique sculptures to help Nucor, a steel production company in Tuscaloosa, raise funds for Children’s of Alabama.
Wedderspoon first started the collaboration with Nucor in 2013, when Nucor approached him about creating sculptures out of Nucor-made steel to auction off at their annual auction for Children’s of Alabama, a children’s hospital located in Birmingham. For Wedderspoon, this is an opportunity to give back to his community, and make the world a little brighter.
“One of the really great things about this is that every single penny goes straight to the hospital,” Wedderspoon said. “And I think it’s really important for students to see that this is something they can do with their skills—not only contribute to the community but do something good for someone else.”
In his first year, Wedderspoon and his students conceptualized three different sculptures, thinking that one would get the approval of the Nucor board. Instead, they loved them all, and Wedderspoon and his team created each one, including a recreation of Simon, a stuffed lion every child receives when they visit Children’s of Alabama so they have a buddy to go through the experience with them.
Since then, Wedderspoon and his team have created a number of sculptures for the auction, and raised almost $350,000.
This year, Wedderspoon and UA sculpture alumnus Jonathan Lanier created two sculptures. One by Lanier featuring a caterpillar climbing on an object engraved with the Children’s of Alabama and Nucor logos. Lanier describes the caterpillar as a “symbol of patience and courage in times of change and uncertainty. It encourages one to surrender to the process of transformation and to stay positive about the future.”
Wedderspoon’s sculpture for this year’s auction is inspired by the giant steel coils produced by Nucor and features a bright red Children’s of Alabama logo. Wedderspoon says that the piece “celebrates the strength and foundation that unites Nucor and Children’s of Alabama in their efforts to protect our children for generations to come.” Wedderspoon’s sculpture was so popular that he is now creating a second version for the runner-up at the auction, with all of those funds also going to Children’s of Alabama.
For Wedderspoon, this partnership reflects a career of wanting to give back and do right by his community. Originally from Miami, Florida, Wedderspoon lost everything, including his glasswork business, during Hurricane Andrew. After the hurricane, Wedderspoon decided to go to art school for sculpture and ended up teaching at UA. When the 2011 tornado devastated Tuscaloosa, Wedderspoon said the sense of unity in a disaster inspired him to create beauty for his community—something that people could appreciate.
“I feel very lucky to be in a position to be able to do this,” Wedderspoon said. “I try to remind myself every day that without the support of the University, we would not be able to do this kind of stuff. We’re able to make our own work and be successful, teach the next generation the skills they need, and also can contribute to our communities and do something positive for society, outside of the art world.”
To see more of Wedderspoon and his students’ work, visit the art and art history department’s public sculpture website.