Pig sculpture still drawing town's notice - The Daily Collegian: Arts & Entertainment

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Pig sculpture still drawing town's notice

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Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002 12:00 am

Imagine walking down College Avenue, turning a corner and seeing a plump, brownish creature with hooves and a large protruding snout glaring up at you.

A hundred years ago, such a sight was common on the dirt road that was College Avenue.

In 1896, this site became part of the borough of State College.

In 1996, the State College Borough Council chose to represent the borough's centennial with the creation of a sculpture based on a photograph taken in the 1890s of a pig foraging on College Avenue.

"This was a local project," said Ed Mattil, who was the project director of the State College Centennial Commission. "So we opened it to any artist in Pennsylvania who wished to compete."

Four finalists were chosen before Eric Berg was announced as the winner, and the Centennial Pigs were given a welcome home in McAllister Alley, located beside the Tavern Restaurant, 220 E. College Ave.

"Most of the other competitors did a humorous piece," Berg said, "but I felt pigs were humorous enough as is, so I made a rather dignified pig with two cute little piglets."

He said he added the two piglets, who were later named Ed (for education) and Hope, to "make a composition and more interesting sculpture and give little kids something to step on to get onto the mother pig."

Mattil said Berg's piece was chosen because it was closest to the image the committee had.

"We didn't want something abstract," he said. He added they wanted something children would enjoy, which he said they have been, as well as "big children, too."

Berg said anyone can enjoy the piece.

"I think they're very accessible both physically and intellectually to people of all walks of life," he said. "It's public art, which speaks for itself. What you see is what you get."

Berg, who is a self-described animal lover, has animal sculptures appearing on many college campuses across the state.

"It started with a childhood fascination with animals," he said.

His aunt traveled often and brought him back small animal sculptures, which he found captivating. She also bought him an encyclopedia of the animal kingdom, he said.

In 1975, Berg sculpted his first pig, an African warthog for the Philadelphia Zoo that has been there for 27 years.

He has sculpted over 40 publicly displayed pieces using a casting process to create bronze figures.

The Centennial Pigs, which weigh about 500 pounds, took four months to complete. The process included the creation of a mold and months at a foundry, where the metal was poured into a ceramic shell, which was cast from the mold. Next Berg got out his tools and added details to the animal, and lastly was the process for coloration.

The piece was finally dedicated July 7, 1996.

Berg said he is "very proud to have the piece there." He added that he is very grateful to the Borough officials and the Centennial Committee for choosing his piece.

"I'll often meet Penn State graduates, and when they find out who I am, they say 'Oh, you made the pigs!' "

He said he was very disappointed when one of the piglets, Ed, was stolen last year; and he was glad the original piglet was eventually returned.

"Public art should be respected by the public and appreciated," he said.

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