UNI’s Public Art Incubator Sculpting 2014 Special Olympics Torch

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa—The Department of Art’s Public Art Incubator at the University of Northern Iowa Special Olympics Podium(UNI) was asked to create the 2014 Special Olympics Torch. Production is now underway, and the torch will be finished by the first week of June, just in time for the Special Olympics.

The 2014 Special Olympics will be held in New Jersey this year from June 14-21, 2014. Almost 3,500 athletes will compete in 16 team and individual sports.

This will be the third torch the Incubator has made now for the Special Olympics, the last one in 2010 held in Nebraska.

Dan Perry, Incubator Shop Technician and UNI Instructor, said, “I went to the opening ceremonies with the 2010 cauldron. There were 16,000 people there. There are Hollywood actors, famous athletes, and government officials. They make a big deal about it, so it’s really exciting.”

This year, the Special Olympics expects around 70,000 fans, family and friends, along with 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 coaches.

UNI Professor of Art Tom Stancliffe said, “They are anticipating this will be the biggest Special Olympics ever as far as publicity.”

The publicity for the Special Olympics is supported by companies such as Bow and Arrow Productions, who is orchestrating the ceremony for the entire Olympics. This includes the concerts, tradeshows, lasers, pyrotechnics and others. Other supporters include 21st Century Fox, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Toys “R” Us, to mention a few. Also, because Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics, members of the Kennedy family can be found supporting the Special Olympics at the opening ceremonies and events.

The Incubator was contacted by the Special Olympics this year, because they were so happy with the last two torches.

When asked how the design process works for the torch, Perry explained, “The Special Olympics produces a logo designed by a special athlete. We generally get an image of this logo, and they say, 'We want that with all this other stuff to happen.'" Then, Perry and the team took the logo provided by the Special Olympics team and examined how it would work from an engineering standpoint.

This design includes different pieces to be carried by athletes and attached to the torch at the opening ceremonies. Once the pieces are attached, a flaming podium will drop from the top to complete the sculpture. Each piece is inscribed with a word that represents different aspects of the Special Olympics. There will also be lights and flames. The Incubator is also creating the podiums for the speakers at the ceremonies.

Two students are working on the torch with Perry and Stancliffe overseeing.

Stancliffe explained the Public Art Incubator, “It’s a way for professional artists to come and use our fabulous facilities to construct public art projects, commissions for public spaces. We also use it as a springboard for recent graduates who are trying to get their first commission and have a place to build it. We are using the Public Art Incubator also to do this project [torch].”

With the project underway, the Incubator is prepared to showcase its artists and UNI in this special centerpiece for the ceremony for the 2014 Special Olympics.

Incubator students sculpting the special olympics torch