Fiberglass statues of Hawkeye mascot created by Quincy artists now on display in Iowa

Laura Sievert

Laura Sievert with "Iowa Brass," left, and "Universe Without Bounds." | Photo courtesy of Laura Sievert

QUINCY — Local artists Laura Sievert and Jaycie Womack Spake were each selected to be part of the University of Iowa’s “Herky on Parade” series which recently was unveiled in Iowa City.  A total of 100 of the 7-foot tall fiberglass statues now dot Johnson County Iowa, with two statues each by Sievert and Womack Spake.

In a press release, Sievert said, “I heard about the design competition back in the fall when Jaycie was still a program manager here at Arts Quincy. As an Iowa grad, I was excited for the opportunity to be a part of the project, and it was natural to pass it on to Jaycie, who is one of the most accomplished muralists in our whole region, because I knew she’d knock it out of the park.”

Sievert’s initial design for a piece inspired by noted physicist and astronomer James VanAllen was accepted in the first round of applications; however, while the selection committee loved Womack Spake’s first submission, there were concerns about copyrights regarding the character she had chosen. After conversations with Think Iowa City, the tourism bureau that sponsors and administers the event, Womack Spake was commissioned instead to make a very special statue honoring Dr. Christine Grant, a pioneer in women’s sports and Title IX history.

As excitement mounted for these two designs, Sievert and Womack were each tapped to take on a second Herky. Sievert’s had a theme of “Iowa Brass,” honoring a brass ensemble in Solon, Iowa, and Womack Spake was commissioned for a mascot themed around professional golfer and Iowa native Zac Johnson.

Painting 7-foot tall fiberglass statues presented challenges that neither artist had encountered before.

“Dr. Grant was actually Scottish, and I wanted to represent that heritage with a tartan design around the legs,” Womack Spake said. “But lining up a complex pattern like that on a 3D object is a real challenge. I actually incorporated printed cloth that was glued and then painted to make it work, so it was problem-solving for each design challenge I came against.”

Sievert noted that designing the Herkys was a great way to make conversation with her neighbors. “I’m out there working on these huge statues on my front porch, so I was getting a lot of people that just had to stop and ask questions. It was also really fun to be able to get my kids in on helping paint and even tweak my designs, and it sure was a conversation starter on my street for about six weeks this spring.”

Both artists credit the project with helping them get to know some famous figures better. 

Jaycee Womack Spake with Dr. Grant Herkey outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena | Photo courtesy of Laura Sievert

“I didn’t know much about Dr. Grant until I was commissioned for this piece, and learning about her, I was kind of blown away,” Spake said. “I’ve been a girl in sports throughout my life, if it weren’t for her, my sister and I wouldn’t have been able to play sports, especially my sister in collegiate sports. This is a key person in history who paved the way for all women who wanted to compete. It was a great honor to represent someone who had a direct impact on the lives of women.

“Then with it installed right outside Carver Hawkeye Arena, where Caitlin Clark lit up the world this year, and seeing what it means to people interacting and taking pictures with her, it just makes all that hard work worth it. It was really rewarding.”

“When I was an undergrad at Iowa, I took an astronomy class in VanAllen hall, so I had some background,” Sievert said. “But when I started researching my design, I loved not just his enormous contributions to our understanding of the physics of our solar system, but at his humility and awe at the scope of the universe we have out there to explore.

Now my 1950’s Space Race-inspired tribute is out there right next to VanAllen hall, and it’s a full-circle moment full of wonder for me. And my Iowa Brass piece installed in Solon is a connection to my days in the Hawkeye marching band. The nationally award-winning Iowa Brass ensemble is one of the best groups in the entire state, and I hope that Herky drives awareness for their fantastic style of music.”

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