Campus opted for cheaper, generic bengal statues

Buffalo State purchased a pair of Bengal statues at $10,000 apiece this semester.

Eric Bomysoad

Buffalo State purchased a pair of Bengal statues at $10,000 apiece this semester.

SUNY Buffalo State’s plan to commission a local artist to create two Bengal tiger statues for its campus was scrapped this semester when the college chose to purchase the statues from an out-of-town company instead.

The tigers in Union Quad and outside the Sports Arena are the result of a project that began in 2008 in the Alumni Association. According to William Benfanti, the association’s executive director, the idea originally came from Vice President of Institutional Advancement Susanne Bair.

The original plan was to hire a local artist to design and create the statues. David Derner, instructional support assistant in the fine arts department, was chosen.

“The image itself was going to be an iconic image, unique to Buffalo State,” Derner said.

He said he was asked to design a tiger that students could climb on and take pictures with.

Derner requested a budget of $150,000-$175,000 to create both statues.

Derner said he thought it was a reasonable budget, considering a life-size human bronze statue would cost between $80,000 and $100,000.

Economic troubles in 2008 led to the project being shelved.

In 2010, previous Director of Alumni Affairs Kate Ward retired and was replaced by Jennifer Heisey. Derner said that after the staff change, he met with the Alumni Association again.

“The new people weren’t enthusiastic about the project,” Derner said.

He said he tried to contact the Alumni Association for updates on the project’s status, but they stopped returning his phone calls.

According to Derner, he didn’t hear anything else about the project until earlier this semester, when he walked into the Union Quad and saw the cement stand being placed in front of the library.

The statues residing on campus now were ordered from the Randolph Rose Collection.

All Classics, Ltd., a company based out of Delaware, sells identical statues. All Classics sold the same Bengal statue to Towson University in Maryland in 2008.

Derner was unimpressed with the craftsmanship of the statues, and noticed that no artist had signed them.

“I could tell they just took a little tiger knick-knack and blew it up,” Derner said. “They cheaped out.”

The Alumni Association said the original project was too expensive, especially with the recession in 2008.

According to Derner, he discussed fundraising ideas with the Alumni Association.

He planned to use the small models to attract donations. He said that he had already sold three of the models for $800 each.

Derner said there were also plans to have students craft the small models as part of a class.

“People were excited when the idea was first presented,” Benfanti said. “But because of economic issues, there wasn’t a budget for it.”

Benfanti said that when the economy began to improve, the college also started the Transforming Lives Campaign. He said that they focused their fundraising efforts on scholarships and student learning, so the statues were still too expensive.

According to Benfanti, Randolph Rose was suggested to the Alumni Association as an easier and more affordable way of getting statues for the campus.

“It just made good fiscal sense,” Benfanti said.

According to Mary-Jo Jagord, director of Alumni Affairs, the statues were supplied by college staff. Susanne Bair donated the statue in Union Quad personally while the athletics department funded the one by the Sports Arena.

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