My inspiration behind the sculpture came from a photo on the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation website—the non-profit behind the creation of the park—which has an adult and child reaching up with a butterfly flying above.
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San Antonio, TX (Vocus) February 25, 2010
“Taking Flight”—the 25-foot, 6,200-pound bronze and 1,500- pounds of Stainless Steel butterfly wings sculpture designed by artist Doug Roper—was recently installed in a two-day process using telescopic handlers at Morgan’s Wonderland, a unique park designed for people with special needs in San Antonio that opens to the public March 3. Grand opening festivities will be held April 10.
Roper donated nearly 80% of his time and design fees to create the bronze sculpture of two hands holding a monarch butterfly. The hands are cast bronze using the lost wax method and the Monarch butterfly wings are 5/8-inch stainless steel. The enlargement armature is Styrofoam with steel bracing covered by a half-inch of classic clay. This sculpture is considered to be the largest cast bronze sculpture in San Antonio.
“My inspiration behind the sculpture came from a photo on the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation website—the non-profit behind the creation of the park—which has an adult and child reaching up with a butterfly flying above,” says Roper. “The butterfly is used throughout the park as a symbol of metamorphosis that symbolizes children experiencing unrestricted play, in spite of physical limitations.”
Given free rein to create his initial concept, Roper first sculpted a small model of the hands of a four-year-old girl. Once approved, he then converted it to a sculpture that was approximately 34 times larger than life-size. The sculpture was cast in over two hundred pieces and assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. The entire process from Roper’s first meeting to the installation of the sculpture took one year.
“No doubt ‘Taking Flight’ will be one of the most-photographed elements of Morgan’s Wonderland,” says philanthropist Gordon Hartman, whose 16-year-old daughter, Morgan, is the inspiration for the park. “This beautiful work of art shows a butterfly ready to spread its wings and soar. Likewise, it’s our fervent desire for anyone with special needs to soar beyond any physical or mental challenges.”
Once the sculptures were complete, the two hands (3,100 lbs. each) were moved into place using telescopic handlers and welded in place on two 48’ piers. “The staff of the Deep in the Heart Art Foundry’s team from Bastrop, Texas employed amazing skill and patience throughout the creative process and installation,” says Roper.
“My hope is that those who view this sculpture will be inspired to become unfettered and take flight while they are at the park and beyond,” says Roper. “I received only a fraction of what I would have charged other clients, but it was my pleasure and joy to donate my time and design fees to Morgan’s Wonderland. The facility is absolutely amazing and will be the vehicle that will open up new adventures to those who have experienced obstacles. I am truly blessed to be associated with this wonderful endeavor.”
Having dealt with several physical and cognitive challenges such as a congenital heart defect, dyslexia and ADHD, Roper was moved by the significance of the project. “My experiences have helped me to be more aware of what courage it takes to live a full and meaningful life, in spite of difficulties.” Roper adds. “My wife of 36 years is the Director of the Achievers’ Center for Education, a small, private Christian secondary school in San Antonio for students with special needs, has also given me great insights.”
Other art pieces in the park include bronze figures of children by Randolph Rose and kinetic sculptures by Jim LaPaso.
Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park. Located at the old Longhorn Quarry at Thousand Oaks and Wurzbach Parkway in northeast San Antonio, the 25-acre park is specifically designed for children and adults with special needs where they can enjoy recreation with family and friends in a fun and safe environment. Special needs children and adults have access to Morgan’s Wonderland at no cost, and only a nominal fee for those accompanying the individual special needs. Reservations prior to each visit to the park are required. This can be accomplished online at http://www.MorgansWonderland.com or by calling the reservation line at (210) 637-3434.
Doug Roper’s love for art and history began while spending his childhood in Europe, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and the United States. Encouraged by the noted sculptress Waldine Tauch, Roper’s formal training began at the Warren Hunter School of Art in the 1970s. He is a life member of the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the Boerne Area Artists Association.
He spends the majority of his time creating commissioned sculptures and limited edition bronzes in many themes, including—but not limited to—western, wildlife, figurative work, fantasy and religious. Sizes of execution range from three-dimensional larger-than-life figures to miniatures, bas relief and presentation pieces. Roper has exhibited in numerous galleries and art shows and has received a variety of awards, including Artist of the Year, Coppini Academy of Fine Art, San Antonio and Best of Show, Sundown Gallery Art Show, Taos, New Mexico.
His creative works have been shown throughout the country and can be found at the War Dog Memorial Monument, Long Island, New York; US Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado; the CEO’s office of the Hershey Corporation, Hershey, PA; St. Mary’s University, San Antonio; Sandhill Shores, Galveston; Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio; Cibolo Nature Center, Boerne; Jefferson United Methodist Church, San Antonio; Travis Park United Methodist Church, San Antonio; University United Methodist Church, San Antonio; and more than 300 creative works in private collections. He was one of seven artists whose work was selected as part of the cultural exchange with Kyoto, Japan.
Roper’s creative works can be viewed online at http://www.dougroper.com. He can be reached for more information at The Carriage House Gallery in Boerne, Texas at (830) 248-1184, at his studio in San Antonio at (210) 684-6368.