WAPAKONETA — An accomplished Columbus-based sculptor explained how he plans to immortalize a moment in Wapakoneta history in bronze, just in time for the moon landing’s 50th anniversary.
Mike Tizzano has been commissioned by the Armstrong Air and Space Museum’s board of directors to sculpt the statue. The statue will depict Armstrong waving at the crowd during the 1969 Homecoming parade. Tizzano is using the photograph from the Sept. 7, 1969, edition of the Wapakoneta Daily News.
Dan Graf, first vice president of the museum association, said that pose was chosen because, “It was a time when Wapakoneta was most proud of Neil’s accomplishments and when Neil was most proud to be home.”
Graf said he contacted Tizzano directly and offered him the opportunity to create the sculpture after seeing photographs of a project he did for Dublin in “AAA Magazine.”
“We had some others interested, but Mike was from Ohio and that interested us. He was also going to use an Ohio foundry,” Graf said.
Tizzano is a retired art teacher, and he tends to do much of his work in full view of the public, he said. While he was working on the Dublin fountain project, a constant flow of people from the community came by asking him questions and watching him work, he said.
“I think I’m a natural teacher,” Tizzano said. He said he doesn’t mind having communities watching the process of his work.
The sculpting process takes hundreds of intensive hours to complete. The Armstrong statue project began with Tizzano studying the photograph provided by the museum association. He then used a young man working at the museum, who has a similar build to Armstrong as a model so he could imagine Armstrong’s pose from every conceivable angle. He also did extensive research, looking for photographs showing Armstrong’s smile and full face.
From those photographs and research, Tizzano sculpted a 1/4-scale model, a maquette, with all of the details which will be present on the completed statue. From the maquette, he is now creating a life-sized sculpture made from a base of Styrofoam boards shaped and sanded down. After the Styrofoam is shaped, he applies an oil-based clay over it. Once this is complete, the sculpt will be used to create the ceramic mold for the bronze.
Tizzano said the project will take a total of 14 months to complete. The Armstrong Air and Space Museum Association is paying $60,000 for the statue.
Graf said this is the first time the museum has chosen to add a part of Armstrong’s legacy to the community and not just the museum grounds.
“The museum is on the edge of town, but Neil lived in town,” he said. “He went to school here. He marched in marching band here. He went to church here.”
The intention is for the statue to be complete for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing next year, said Brittany Venturella, interim director of the museum. The statue will be placed in downtown Wapakoneta on Auglaize Street. During the homecoming parade in 1969, the street was part of the route, she said.
“I want it to be done in such a way when his (Armstrong) family sees it they go, ‘That’s Neil,’” Tizzano said.
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