Moose shows its mettle

Steel sculpture meant to represent overcoming adversity

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2007


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  Paul Tornow uses the winch to continue the project. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Kenai Peninsula College art student Paul Tornow, left, and maintenance supervisor Dave Stang prepare a makeshift winch last week to raise heavy steel pieces to add to an ongoing sculpture being built in front of the college.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

They say you know you’ve become an Alaskan when you quit slowing down to stare at moose, but a mammoth-sized moose that recently began making an appearance in front of Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna would be tough for even a sourdough to ignore.

“It’s pretty big. It’ll roughly be 18 feet high, 23 feet long and 10 feet wide when it’s done,” said KPC student Paul Tornow about the scrap metal moose sculpture he’s constructing in front of the college.

Tornow, who began taking classes at KPC in 2003, is pursuing a bachelors of fine arts degree. He is a founding member of the college’s Art Students League Association and is the club’s first president. Several other paintings and sculptures of Tornow’s are on permanent display at the college, and he’s had artwork featured at Kaladi Brothers coffee shop, Coffee Concepts, the Safari Club International banquet and several other venues.


Paul Tornow uses the winch to continue the project.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Gary Turner, college director, said he is excited about the project.

“It’ll be a great presence for people to see when they drive in. I don’t know if it’ll be the biggest moose in Alaska, but I’d be willing to bet it could be,” he said.

Turner said the project is a great example of a KPC student putting the knowledge and skills they’ve learned at the college to use -- including the written proposal submitted by Tornow last year, making miniature mock-ups of the design to present to the KPC leadership team and college council, taking additional art and vocational classes, such as welding, needed for the creation of the project, and ultimately constructing the sculpture itself.

The project also is an example of a student using locally gleaned knowledge to give back to the community, Turner said.

“We’re really proud of him. The college is a getting a great sculpture from an unbelievable artist, and a student is getting a great learning experience,” he said.

Tornow said he hopes it will be more than just himself who learns something from the erection of the metal moose.

“The whole idea behind this project was so students could see something like this being done from the ground the ground up. Watching a piece of art come to life is a real learning experience,” he said.

The moose he is currently creating is one of two semi-abstract and larger-than-life animals he will build for the project. The finished piece will be two bulls going head to head with each other, which Tornow said represents several important ideas.

“My desire was to create a piece of art which can stand forever. I chose moose because of their connection to the wildlife of Alaska, their size and majesty as a metaphor for striving to be great and not giving up in the face of adversity,” he said.

Tornow said he hopes the finished piece will be aesthetically pleasing and an inspiration to students facing scholastic struggles.

“It’ll enhance the learning environment and hopefully, like the moose, students will know to keep on pushing when things get tough,” he said.

Tornow said he hopes to have the first moose completed by the end of May because school will be out and he’s already got summer work lined up. He’ll resume work on the second one when time and materials become available.

“The deal was I’d supply the time if they supplied the materials, so all the steel is from the metal shop here at the college, and I try to get scraps of whatever I can together, too,” he said.

Tornow said it still will be challenging for him to acquire enough steel for a project so large, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I like doing big work, big painting, big sculptures -- big everything,” he said.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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