Groundbreaking sculpture finds new home at UA Little Rock

Artist Kevin Kresse stands by his sculpture, "The Ground Breaker," that was recently installed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain/UA Little Rock Communications.

In 2000, Jack Kinnaman, founder of Kinko Constructors Inc., became enamored with a sculpture Kevin Kresse, a family friend, created for his daughter. The sculpture was so beautiful that Kinnaman asked Kresse to create a life-size sculpture for his home. 

“Kevin created this sculpture of an old woman who is turned and looking back at a young girl, her granddaughter, who is waving back,” Kinnaman said. “I was incredibly moved by it. It captured the emotion of the moment so well. I told Kevin I would like to commission him to do a sculpture in honor of my dad, a very talented guy who worked in construction all his life.”

After discussing various ideas, Kresse, a 1984 graduate of UA Little Rock, designed a sculpture of a muscular railroad worker driving a stake into the ground with a sledgehammer.

The sculpture, aptly named “The Ground Breaker,” stood proudly in the Kinnamans’ home overlooking the river in the Vantage Point neighborhood until 2016. When Kinnaman moved to a smaller home that could not house his beloved sculpture, he donated the sculpture to UA Little Rock.

Jack Kinnaman
Jack Kinnaman

“I want somebody to be seeing this beautiful sculpture 40 or 50 years from now,” Kinnaman said. 

The sculpture has recently found a new home in front of the Engineering Technology and Applied Science (ETAS) building, which also houses the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering.

This is a fitting home for the new sculpture since Kinnaman was instrumental in the department’s creation. In the 1990s, Kinnaman was among a group of leaders in the Arkansas construction industry who urged the university to begin a postsecondary education program in construction management.

”I was invited to join the Dean’s Advisory Council at Fayetteville for the express purpose of starting a construction school, but I thought that the school should be in Little Rock since six of the top seven construction firms were in Little Rock and Conway at the time,” he said. “It’s become one of the very best construction engineering and construction management programs in the United States.”

Kinnaman has been a long-time supporter and advocate for UA Little Rock. He is a 2004 inductee of the UA Little Rock Athletics Hall of Fame and a 2013 recipient of an honorary doctor of construction education degree. His contributions to UA Little Rock Athletics include the construction of the Trojans’ indoor practice facility and Wheeler Complex, the building of the Trojans’ first indoor hitting facility, and a new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility and press box at Gary Hogan Field. He also provided renovations to the men’s and women’s basketball offices, volleyball offices, and men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms in the mid-1990s at no cost to the university. In support of the construction management program, he has funded the Jack Kinnaman Constructor Endowed Scholarship and the Phyllis Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship in memory of his first wife.

After allowing three days for the concrete pad and new sidewalk East Harding Construction poured to settle, Kresse, Michael Warrick, professor of art, and Patrick Fleming assembled the more than 600-pound sculpture on June 4. They also painted a fresh coat of protective paste wax on the surface to protect the sculpture.

Kresse said it was a very poignant experience to place “The Ground Breaker,” which was his first life-size bronze sculpture, at his alma mater.

“I think it’s wonderful that my sculpture is at UA Little Rock,” Kresse said. “My very last class before I graduated UA Little Rock was a sculpture class with Michael Warrick, and I really enjoyed it and ended up learning how to cast bronze. This is where I learned how to make a mold, cast bronze, the whole process. It’s all very fitting that my very first bronze sculpture is now at the school where I learned to make bronze sculptures.”

Michael Warrick (left), Kevin Kresse (middle), and Patrick Fleming (right) stand next to Kresse's sculpture, "The Ground Breaker" which was recently installed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain/UA Little Rock Communications.
Michael Warrick (left), Kevin Kresse (middle), and Patrick Fleming (right) stand next to Kresse’s sculpture, “The Ground Breaker,” which was recently installed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock after being donated by Jack Kinnaman. Photo by Ben Krain/UA Little Rock Communications.
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