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Ryan Wilhite, who teaches in Oak Grove, makes 800-pound Bruin sculpture installed at George Fox University

New Urban High School teacher and sculptor Ryan Wilhite spent two years crafting the 10-foot-tall, 800-pound Bruin sculpture installed at George Fox University this past fall.

PHOTO BY: GARY ALLEN - Oak Grove's New Urban High School teacher and sculptor Ryan Wilhite spent two years crafting the 10-foot-tall, 800-pound Bruin sculpture recently installed at George Fox University."The goal for me was two-fold," Wilhite said. "One, that it looks really good. Two, that you can enjoy it from a distance as a piece of sculpture and go up close to it and touch it, rather than it being a piece in a gallery."

Wilhite, a teacher in Oak Grove who lives in Tualatin, recalled a conversation that he had several years prior to his sculpture's installation.

"I remember walking around a long time ago when I was doing bronzes full time," Wilhite said, "and my dad said, 'man it would be nice if we had a bronze bear here,' and then it really didn't get much past that."

Wilhite was a full-time bronze sculpture artist before the recession. When the economy took a downturn, he began teaching full-time and doing art on the side.

When the project first surfaced in 2014, Wilhite was asked if he would be willing to build the bear. Wilhite would eventually produce three clay models: one standing with a symmetrical pose, the other standing on all fours and the third something a little more aggressive, Wilhite said.

For the bear, he used his personal garage space to sculpt 200 pounds of oil-based clay he bought on Amazon to build the molds before sending them off to Firebird Bronze Foundry to be cast and welded together.

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