A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Students persevere, prove they’re cut out
for huge sculpture project at Bryan Station


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Southside Technical Center welding students assembled the entire unit, positioning the hollow stainless-steel letters at 90-degree angles. Then it sat — for months — before this fall’s installation outside Bryan Station High School. (Photo courtesy of Southside)


 

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward
 

There are long-term group projects, and then there are long-term group projects such as the one that created the stainless steel sculpture now perched in front of Bryan Station High School in Lexington. It’s the culmination of more than two years’ worth of imagination, planning, grit and perseverance spearheaded by Southside Technical Center.
 

“It’ll be here as long as the school is here,” welding instructor Jim Lamirande said with satisfaction after setting up the STATION sign in block capital letters.
 

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Southside students assembled the entire unit, positioning the hollow stanless steel letters at 90-degree angles. (Photo courtesy of Southside)

Turn back the calendar to when a Bryan Station student came up with a 3D paper model that he shared with art teacher Marquetta Hensley. “I immediately thought it would make a fantastic sign for the school,” she recalled.
 

Bryan Station had already forged ties with Southside, having donated several paintings for the tech center’s cafeteria and other artwork depicting the career fields taught there. When Hensley tossed out the sculpture idea, it landed in Lamirande’s capable hands.
 

In summer 2012, Lamirande attended a conference where he connected with a fellow welding teacher from Lake Cumberland Area Technology Center in Russell Springs. They decided their students could work together on the STATION project.
 

A Lake Cumberland student designed and cut out the forms with a plasma torch, and a classmate welded the steel pieces into individual letters. Southside welding students later assembled the whole unit in their shop, positioning the hollow letters at 90-degree angles. Fusing the letters, polishing the flat steel to add a sense of texture with a brushed finish and fitting the sculpture on the base took several weeks.
 

“The second-year students welded it from corner to corner and finished it off,” said junior Austin Sparks. “We then used a special sanding disk so it wouldn’t rust in bad weather. The letters are now welded to poles and cemented into the ground.”
 

Students in Southside’s carpentry and masonry classes also chipped in since the sculpture required temporary wooden supports and permanent settings in concrete. “It’s pulled all the classes together and given all the students an opportunity to help out,” said senior Louis Hawkins, who takes masonry.
 

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Welding instructor Jim Lamirande sprayed the top of the sculpture with an acrylic sealant and touched up a few letters. (Photo from FCPS)

However, those final steps came after a year’s delay in the installation.
 

Lamirande originally wanted to put the sign in the grassy patch next to the bus loop and the front door. However, the concentration of electrical and sewer lines there prompted him to move it to the lawn fronting Eastin Road. He also had to hash out details with the project engineers such as the advantages of using stainless steel pipes for the four in-ground supports. Then there’s always the weather to contend with.
 

Finally, the much-anticipated STATION settled into its home this fall as a tractor from Locust Trace AgriScience Farm hoisted the 20-foot-long, more than 1,500-pound structure into place. While awaiting the cement truck to fill in around the poles, Lamirande sprayed the top of the sculpture with an acrylic sealant and touched up a few letters. He hopes a security camera mounted nearby will also protect the sign.
 

“It was a monumental task on his part, and the end result is totally awesome,” said Hensley, who lined up contributors for the materials and site work.
 

For the Southside students, completing the highly visible project for their home school affirmed a confidence in their skills and fired up a feeling of accomplishment.
 

“I can come back (in future years) and show younger kids that I had a hand in this,” Louis said, adding, “It’s got a nice look to it.”
 

Tammy L. Lane is a communications specialist and website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.


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