As a professor with 40 years experience teaching art, Michael Warrick finds great inspiration from young people.
“It’s hard not to be inspired by young people and your own children,” said Warrick, a professor of sculpture at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. “Part of the reason why we are here is to nurture and help young people develop, but to also see the world the way they do with open eyes and excitement.”
Warrick, who worked with kindergarten through 12th-grade students for five years and has been a college instructor for 35, is now using youths as the idea behind one of his newest sculptures. His creation will soon cross oceans and cultures to symbolize the partnership and friendship between the City of Little Rock and its sister city in Hanam City, South Korea. Hanam City will also give Little Rock a sculpture later this year.
“Hanam City is one of our most vibrant relationships,” saidRobert Coon, one of theLittle Rock Sister Cities Commission’s liaisons to the South Korean city and a partner at Impact Management Group. “They have frequently done the youth exchange program, which has been a strong piece of our relationship. We have sent a number of high school delegations to Hanam City to learn about their culture and way of life, and we have received a number of delegations from Hanam City to share our culture as well.”
The gift will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship with the two cities, which began in 1992.
With a goal of using the youth exchange program as a symbol for the bond between the communities, Warrick’s sculpture is titled “Youth” and is inspired by pieces he created for his own children, Annika and Phillip, when they turned 13 and transitioned into young adulthood.
“Youth” is a 7-foot figurative female sculpture cast in bronze and composed of vines, leaves, and a small bird, Warrick said. The figure has a traditional green finish, while the small bird is coated with 23.75 karat gold leaf.
“The use of the vines and the bird represent the Natural State and also represent the idea of growth, and that is what we are investing in as teachers, administrators, and staff. We are investing in the youth to have a better future,” Warrick said.
During an annual visit to Little Rock on Feb. 8, an eight-person delegation from South Korea recently got firsthand experience with Warrick’s creative process. Using the university’s foundry, Warrick poured bronze that will be used in the sculpture — to the delight of the visiting delegates, who captured the event with their cameras.
“It was pretty amazing to see the sculpture being cast in bronze,” Coon said. “The delegates were very impressed. The experience makes the sculpture exchange that much more special when you see the artist going through the artistic process yourself.”
The South Korean delegation presented Warrick with a beautiful box in the shape of a house containing a variety of teas. In turn, Warrick gave each delegation member a small sculpture of a house made in purpleheart wood with a gold leaf at the top.
“It’s called a spirit house,” Warrick said. “I told the vice mayor of Hanam City that I started making these spirit houses about 19 years ago when my wife almost died giving birth to our son. Family and friends came out often to help us during the first six months of my son’s life. I wanted to give them something special as a way to say thank you.”
Now, whenever Warrick wants to thank or honor someone, he often creates a spirit house.
Once Warrick’s sculpture is completed, it will be delivered to South Korea sometime this summer and will stand in Hanam City’s new Sister City Park.
Though a final destination for the sculpture that Hanam City will give to Little Rock has not yet been determined, the delegates toured several sites that might house the sister city sculpture, including Main Street, the River Market, or MacArthur Park.
In the upper right photo, Patrick Fleming (left), Marianne Hedinger (center), and Michael Warrick (right) pour bronze for the sculpture, “Youth,” which will be given to Hanam City as part of a sculpture exchange between Hanam City and Little Rock. Photos by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.