The North Campus welcomed its latest addition to the Miami International Sculpture Park— a 6-foot-6.7-inch tall, 3-foot-11.2-inch wide, fiberglass Buddy Bear sculpture—a donation made by the German Consulate of Miami as a symbol of friendship.
It was unveiled on July 6 in the 3000 building atrium area.
“Germany has a difficult past, but today…we want to reach out to everybody within the international community to send out a signal of tolerance, of friendship, of mutual understanding,” said Jürgen Borsch, the former consul general of Germany in Miami, during the ceremony. “[This is] a campus that is open and welcoming in a way that I have rarely seen…[the donation is] to express the variety and internationalism of the campus.”
The sculpture of Berlin’s emblematic animal has been a global symbol of peace for the past 15 years. What started as a street art project in 2001—a display of more than 100 bears throughout Berlin initiated by Klaus and Eva Herlitz— evolved into an international exhibit of more than 140 Buddy Bears, each representing a country recognized by the United Nations.
The idea of donating the piece to North Campus originated two years ago when the Dove of Peace sculpture was unveiled. Borsch, who was at the event, was fascinated by the dove’s unveiling and the campus’ architecture and thought it would be a great idea to gift a Buddy Bear to the campus.
This past February, two Buddy Bears, painted white, were shipped from Berlin to Miami.
One was designed and colored by artist Cynthia Fleischmann and is currently located in the German Consulate Office at Biscayne Boulevard. The other was brought to North Campus to be designed and painted by North Campus students.
A contest was held to design the North Campus Buddy Bear. After 60 to 70 proposals, North Campus graphic arts student Abraham Vargas was selected the winner. His design consists of geometric shapes.
“Geometric figures are all over the world,” Vargas said. “I started looking at tattoos and I saw tiger designs, I saw wolf designs, but I didn’t see too many bear designs. This is why I wanted to create a geometric bear because you see geometric figures not only on campus but anywhere you look at.”
Vargas originally thought of Earth tones for the colors of the sculpture, but his palette was later changed to multifaceted colors to express the campus’ diversity.
Graphic design professor Eric Cornish assisted in the design portion while art professor Victor Gomez directed visual arts students in the painting process.
Throughout the course of seven weeks during summer A, a group of around 20 students and faculty members worked on the sculpture in Room 5214. Professor Alena Fresquet and her visual arts class along with Gomez and his students painted the bear. They worked four to six hours per day.
The sculpture was first painted all black, and every single shape was taped out before the hand-mixed colors were added. High-quality acrylic paint was used because of its resistance to fading.
The colors in the eyes, ears and belly area were mixed with white to form lighter colors to represent a glow emanating within the bear. The shades on the sides are the darker colors created using the same amount of black. Even if they are different, all the colors match because the same amount of white or black paint was mixed with each color.
“In Miami, everybody wants to be together, but everybody still wants to hold on to their identity,” Gomez said. “This is why wide-ranging colors were used, because they are all different but still blend in. This is pretty much the theory, even though we’re all together, we can still be different and get along.”
During the Buddy Bear unveiling event, North Campus President Malou C. Harrison said that the location of the statue was chosen not only because it’s a prominent student gathering place but also because visitors will receive a warm welcome when coming to the conference center, which is located in the 3000 building.
“This is a message of friendship…and for us at the North Campus it means that every student and member of the community is welcome and has a place, and [the Buddy Bear] is a symbol of that,” said Georgette Perez, interim dean of students at North Campus.