When Kevin Eichner,'92, was an art student at Buffalo State, he scavenged for scrap metal for his projects in the shadows of Bethlehem Steel.
"Buffalo is an amazing place to be a sculptor. The industrial scrap yards provide an endless supply of material and inspiration," said Eichner, now a Hilton Head, South Carolina, art studio director and sculptor who uses industrial I-beams, along with other materials for his work. "As a sculptor, I search to understand the truth to the materials and strive to discover ways to stretch and manipulate that truth, bringing forth its potential in new ways,"
He drew upon this philosophy to create the design that won the recent Horace “Hank” Mann Sculpture Competition. Eichner’s iron sculpture honoring the beloved Buffalo State educator will be installed in the Hank Mann Quad on the east side of the Donald Savage Building next spring.
Earlier this year, the Fine Arts Department opened the sculpture competition to students and alumni interested in contributing to the legacy of the SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Exceptional Education who passed away in 2010 after teaching at Buffalo State for more than 40 years. The effort was spearheaded by Susanne Bair, vice president for institutional advancement, who envisions the Mann sculpture as the cornerstone of the quad that will be officially named in a dedication ceremony in April.
The sculpture, which Eichner is working on in his Hilton Head studio, will consist of multiple beams, “the tallest of which represents Mr. Mann. The others will represent the students and community that continue to grow around his work and his legacy,” said Eichner who learned of the competition through fine arts professor Ken Payne.
“I have been actively involved with Buffalo State since my graduation, returning for iron pours and conferences and visiting the studio whenever I was in town,” said Eichner, who grew up in Kenmore. “I was eager to participate because Buffalo is where my roots are.”
His submission caught the attention of the five jurors, including Philip Ogle, professor and chair of fine arts.
"Kevin’s sculpture has a treelike quality to it, which carries with it the symbol of knowledge and growth," Ogle said. "This masterful work fit the educational aspects we were looking for in the winning sculpture."
The competition was broken into three phases. First, the jurors looked at submitted sketches, followed by miniatures models, and finally interviews with the finalists about their vision for the sculpture.
"Kevin's presentation was very good," Ogle said. "He seemed to be knowledgeable of what we were looking for and capable of being able to complete the project on time."
Eichner, who serves as artist-in-residence and executive director of the Moncure Museum of Art in North Carolina where he also teaches, has had his work included in numerous public art exhibitions and private collections throughout the Southeast. He will come to Buffalo prior to the courtyard dedication to finish the sculpture and installation details.
"Buffalo State is where I began my work as a sculptor and I wanted to give back to the community that has supported me," he said. "I am honored and excited to bring my work back to Buffalo and the Buffalo State campus."
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