‘Meat’ Pawtucket’s latest sculpture

‘Meat’ Pawtucket’s latest sculpture

Manuel Vasquez, left, and John Malette, both seniors at the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Pawtucket show off a pig sculpture they designed and created in collaboration with the city’s Department of Public Works. The sculpture is slated to be placed outside of a local business to redirect pedestrian traffic around a curb on the sidewalk that has historically been a tripping hazard. (Breeze photo by Melanie Thibeault)
JMW students work with DPW to design traffic barriers

PAWTUCKET – Inside an art studio at the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Pawtucket sit two 800-pound concrete pig sculptures, waiting to be relocated to a new home outside of a Pine Street business.

The bright pink sculptures were designed and created by Manuel Vasquez, of Pawtucket, a senior at JMW, with help from art teacher Chris Kane and fellow senior John Malette, also of Pawtucket, in partnership with the city’s Department of Public Works to serve as barriers to redirect pedestrian traffic in front of Armando and Sons Meat Market, 265 Pine St.

“It’s the ultimate art project,” Kane told The Breeze. “It’s a real-world art project that will be out there and function in the world.”

“We had fun doing this entire thing,” Vasquez said. “(The whole project) took more than I thought it would. … I’m just looking forward to seeing it out there.”

The project was conceived a year ago and was passed down to Joe Morais, of the DPW’s engineering division, who told The Breeze that he currently has no timeline for when the sculptures will be moved as he waits to get in touch with the new owner of the business. His hope, he said, is to have them out by the end of spring if not earlier.

“I love them,” Morais said of the sculptures. “Essentially (the students) made a sculpture out of concrete, which is not easy to do. …Creativity aside, it’s going to serve its purpose.”

The goal, he said, is to use the pigs to redirect pedestrians away from a curb on the sidewalk in front of the meat market that has historically been a tripping hazard by forcing people to walk fivefeet around that spot.

What’s cool about the sculptures, said Kane, whose own sculptures can be found around the city including “Fanny the Elephant” at Slater Park, is that they could be transported and moved to another location in the city in the future.

The pigs, made of plywood and filled with concrete and designed to look like Lego Minecraft figures, measure 37 inches tall, 44 inches long, and 20 inches wide.

After an official from the DPW reached out to Kane about getting students involved, they made small clay models and designs, which they shared with city workers, until they settled on the final plan. All supplies for the project were funded by the DPW.

Upon learning that the blocks would be placed in front of the market, Kane said the idea of pigs “seemed to be a natural choice.”

“It’s a very long process to make sculptures like this,” he said. “As simple as it looks, it’s a complicated form to make a mold of.”

Vasquez said he worked on the sculptures every day for at least five months. “The heads must have taken two months alone,” he said.

Besides class time, Kane said Vasquez and Malette donated a lot of their time outside of the school day and last summer. “It’s a lot of hard work,” he said. “It’s heavy labor mixing concrete.”

They built the pigs in three parts: heads, bodies, and tails. All the joints are sealed with silicone, so water can’t migrate between the three parts and start to push them apart, he said, adding that they installed rebar lifting rings, so the sculptures can be picked up with a crane.

They used angle grinders to make sure the sculptures are touch-friendly since they’ll be outdoor pieces, he noted, and had help from city workers to pour concrete into the bodies.

While Vasquez has helped his father with carpentry projects, he said the pig sculptures are different from anything he’s created. He also grew up knowing the former owner of Armando’s, who died last October, and often goes to the market, so he said he likes that connection as well.

JMW students have collaborated with the city on past projects, including painting and decorating 60-gallon plastic drum containers that are used to collect storm water runoff. This year marks the fourth consecutive year of that project, which has been “a huge hit,” Morais said.