Lofty donation leads to ‘Lofty Return’

The pictured version of David Anderson’s ‘Lofty Return’ statue will be similar to the one he is sculpting for USM. Courtesy Photo: David Anderson
The pictured version of David Anderson’s ‘Lofty Return’ statue will be similar to the one he is sculpting for USM.
Courtesy Photo: David Anderson

The University of Southern Mississippi will take soaring to new heights with the contribution of a pair of golden eagle statues from Southern Miss alumnus, Chuck Scianna. The statues are scheduled to be dedicated and unveiled Thurs., Oct. 24, two days before USM’s Homecoming football game.

The piece, designed by artist and sculptor David Anderson, is called ‘Lofty Return’ and will display an eagle landing on a branch. The All-American Rose Garden will be home to the 30-feet-tall statue. A smaller version will be erected on the Gulf Coast campus, representing the unity of the two.

Anderson regards Scianna’s generosity as an act of paying it forward to inspire other alumni.

“Lofty goals, ideas and expectations, and here you are returning to the place where you nurtured some of those feelings,” Anderson said. “Now you’re hoping to give others the opportunity.”

The statue will be constructed of bronze with a stainless steel substructure and armature running throughout the piece anchored into concrete. The sculpture is supposed to resist harsh weather conditions.

“We’re hoping it stays in place as long as your buildings stay in place,” Anderson said. “(This is) a very large piece, this is going to be a major, major monument.”

While the exact cost of the structure is confidential between the sculptor and client, everything is being donated by Scianna, excluding the eight-feet concrete base.

According to USM Sculptor and Ceramics professor Jennifer Torres, the project could get pricey.

“Adding in the infrastructure, the university’s contribution, the man power, the material and the time for the artist, it could easily reach $100,000.”

In regards to communicating the art plans on campus, Torres raised concern.

“It’s excellent that someone loves the university this much that they would donate such an expensive gift, but it’s coming here without us really knowing about it,” she said. “It’s almost as if you’re the athletic director and someone starts a new team, and you know nothing about it.”

Despite finances and communication, she said it will be interesting to see the visual impact of the statues.

Southern Miss senior, Jennifer Prescott, spoke of the February tornado damage and said the piece could represent the spirit of USM.

“Maybe they will stand the test of times if we ever have another unfortunate natural disaster,” Prescott said. “Having the eagle there still standing would be a beacon of pride.”

“The tornado ruined a lot but made everyone closer,” she said. “Maybe the statues will help with that too.”

Soon, the Hattiesburg community and visitors will be able to look from Hardy Street and view the golden eagle statue with pride.