Four years of work culminated in the unveiling of a bronze Bobcat statue Tuesday at Bel Air High School, to honor the school's mascot, as well as the memory of a much-loved football coach, the late Albert "Al" Cesky.
More than 100 people – including some who played for Cesky during the 1950s and '60s – contributed money to the Bobcat Sculpture Project, which was coordinated by the Bel Air Cultural Arts Commission.
"It's very exciting for our community, because art brings a community together," Kristien Foss, president of the arts commission, said.
Foss is also a teacher at Bel Air Middle School and has two children at Bel Air High. She said the project was "personal" for her, not only because of her sons, but also because her parents, siblings and husband are graduates of Bel Air High.
She said Cesky, who died in 1985, "just embodied good coaching."
"The whole purpose of our commission is just to promote the performing and visual arts in the town of Bel Air," Foss said.
Commission members worked to raise more than $50,000, including matching funds from BAHS alumnus Don Dick and his sister, Kate Gunderson, according to town Economic Development Director Trish Heidenreich, who serves as a liaison to the commission.
Heidenreich said other large donors who "really took the project and propelled it forward" included the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, the Bel Air Boosters and local resident Gloria Michael.
Many other people made smaller contributions of $20 to $50.
"There were a lot of people that, over time, [who] helped propel this project forward," Heidenreich said.
Austin, Texas, sculptor John Maisano was selected by the commission through a bid process to create the Bobcat sculpture.
Heidenreich said the nine-member commission operates under the auspices of Bel Air's town charter.
Maisano was one of about seven bidders on the Bobcat sculpture project, and he was selected about 18 months to two years ago, Heidenreich said.
"We chose John Maisano's submission because the commission felt it most represented the Bel Air Bobcat," she explained.
The bronze Bobcat was installed on a brick pedestal, which includes the cornerstone of the former school building, which closed just shy of four years ago. That building has since been torn down and in its place is the school's stadium; the sculpture is near the stadium entrance.
Heidenreich said the "best-quality bronze" was used for the fabrication, which ensures the sculpture will be around for decades, with minimal upkeep needed.
"It's a forever piece," she said.
Although the sculpture and base have been completed, the up-lighting has yet to be installed, and the grounds are to be landscaped.
Ownership of the sculpture has been transferred to the Harford County Board of Education, and Heidenreich said any funds remaining after the lighting and landscaping are complete will be donated to the school for maintenance.
Foss said a name for the sculpture is to be selected, and approved by the Board of Education.
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"It mixes the three things I love – football, education and art – it's all right there in one sculpture," she said.