UW-Stout News Story

Sculpture installation completes new university gateway

September 21, 2012

A new gateway to University of Wisconsin-Stout was completed Friday with an artistic touch — the installation of a 1,000-pound sculpture.

Mike Route, a 2005 UW-Stout art graduate, watched as workers from Market & Johnson of Eau Claire and Jay’s Sign Service of Eau Claire erected his forged steel flame. It is part of a new, large sign that marks the boundary of north campus.

Mike Route and Jack RouteThe sign is about 17 feet wide and 10 feet tall, with the sculpture rising another three to four feet. The sign is in front of Wigen and Hovlid halls, at the intersection of First Avenue and Broadway Street.

“The concept is to announce that you’re entering campus because the borders to campus are not clear,” said Gary Gust, UW-Stout engineering specialist. “It’s a nice way to announce that you’re now on campus.”

North campus is about four blocks from the main campus, which is defined by Bowman Hall Clock Tower. “People often say they see the Clock Tower and think that’s where the campus begins,” Gust said.

The university hopes to erect similar signs at several other campus entry points, although no timetable or locations for those signs have been determined, Gust said.

A seven-person committee began working on the gateway project in 2011. They chose the concept by Mike Route and his father, Jack, both of Frederic. Jack is a 1977 UW-Stout graduate and has taught metalwork in the UW-Stout art department.

The Routes’ curved sign, with decorative sandstone, included an option for a sculpture designed by Mike. The committee liked Mike’s forged vertical flame because it represents UW-Stout’s hands-on learning style and the forging of students’ minds.

"We felt the flame showed upward movement and progress," said Scott Griesbach, committee chair and University Housing director. “A flame is also grounding too. We liked the way the flame highlights that we are grounded in history but shows the momentum of a polytechnic university."

Mike Route said he “literally took a sledgehammer” to pound hammer marks into the seven branches of the flame. “Seeing the hammer marks in the sculpture makes sense because it relates to Stout as a polytechnic school,” Mike said.

After graduating from UW-Stout, Mike worked as a graphic designer in Atlanta for two years. He opened Red Iron Studios in Frederic in 2008. He enjoys working with large metal designs but said this is the biggest he’s done. “It really did test the limits of my shop and tools,” he said.

“It’s exciting for me to come back to campus and showcase what I can do. To have something like this represent Stout is very cool,” Mike said.

Landscaping around the sign still needs to be finished.

“We wanted the sign to convey the right image of UW-Stout,” Gust said. “It has a certain feel of tradition, and it’s timeless.”

The sign will be lighted at night.

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Photo caption

Mike Route, left, and his father, Jack Route, designed the new north campus gateway. Both are from Frederic and are UW-Stout alumni. Mike also created the steel sculpture.

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