Short Vine debuts new Bearcat statue
Alumnus sculptor unveils 'spirit symbol of the university' near campus.
By John Bach
May 16, 2016
An 8-foot statue of the University of Cincinnati Bearcat now greets passersby along Short Vine in Corryville.
Located a block from campus along the street’s revitalized entertainment district, the replica of UC’s mascot awaits fans, alumni and neighbors in front of the new headquarters of Uptown Rental Properties, which partnered with UC to complete the project.
The statue is the latest work of UC alumnus sculptor Tom Tsuchiya, A&S ’95, who may be best known locally for his bronze sculptures of Cincinnati Reds greats seen in front of Great American Ball Park. He is known nationally for his work with the NFL, and beginning this year he will sculpt the Hall of Fame plaques for Major League Baseball.
“It is definitely a sentimental connection for me because I’m a very proud Bearcat alum,” said Tsuchiya after the sculpture was unveiled. “It is great to sculpt the actual spirit symbol of the university.”
Tsuchiya lived just blocks away from the statue’s location when he was a student. He credits his time studying the art and archaeology of Rome at UC in the nationally ranked classics department in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, which served as inspiration for much of his sculpting.
Tsuchiya crafted the piece to mimic the UC mascot’s often-seen flex pose and even consulted with students who wear the Bearcat suit to assure its accuracy.
“We wanted to make him look proud, fun and tough looking,” said Tsuchiya, who pointed out that the Bearcat is unclothed and ultimately will be dressed by fashion design students from UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. “He will wear different jerseys or maybe a cap and gown. He will have a different kind of look depending on the season.”
Assisting with the creation of the statue was Bill Bankes, Eng ’81, an industrial engineering graduate, who owns Global Foam Company in Dayton, Ohio. Bankes’ firm fashioned it out of foam after another local firm, Exact Metrology, did the 3D scanning of the original sculpture, scaled it up to size and created digital enhancements.
Inside the piece is a nearly 400-pound steel frame, giving heft to the piece that was finished with a painted polyurethane hard coating.
Many in attendance used the unveiling to point out the transition of the Uptown neighborhoods that surround UC, particularly the resurgence of the Short Vine district, soon to be anchored by a new Kroger Marketplace on its southern end.
“When you begin to think about Uptown and what it represents, all you have to do is look around and see all the new buildings, the new energy and the incredible work by so many people that represent our area,” said UC Athletics Director Mike Bohn.
UC President Santa Ono, Dan Schimberg, CEO of Uptown Properties, and Athletics Director Mike Bohn speak as part of the unveiling ceremony.
Dan Schimberg, CEO of Uptown Rental Properties and a UC alumnus, recalled Vine Street’s history.
“In the 1980s this was the spot for university students and others around the city to socialize, listen to all kinds of great music and just have a good time,” said Schimberg, remembering national acts such as Prince and U2, who played at Bogarts. Schimberg has been involved in efforts to revitalize the area, which he said had declined significantly in the ’80s and ’90s.
A few improvements completed include the creation of more than 1,500 new housing units, improved connectivity by way of enhanced crosswalks and traffic engineering along Jefferson Avenue, improved streetscapes along the Short Vine entertainment district, improvements or demolition of blighted properties and added parking in the area.
“It is amazing what can be accomplished with clear guidance and a dedicated group including the university, the city and an eager private sector,” said Schimberg.
UC President Santa Ono discussed the drastic changes to neighborhoods surrounding campus, including Corryville.
“Placing this beautiful and historic statue here is really putting that paw print, if you will, on Short Vine,” said Ono. “And that really signifies the extension of our beautiful campus all the way up to here.”