FLORENCE, K.Y. — Cincinnati native Tom Tsuchiya is renowned for his sculptures, and local sports fans are very familiar with his artistic skill — especially those who visit Great American Ball Park.
Tsuchiya’s work includes the bronze statues of former Cincinnati Reds players near the entrance of Great American Ball Park. Among those all-time great Reds standouts that Tsuchiya has skillfully sculpted are Ted Kluszewski, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Nuxhall and Frank Robinson, not to mention Big Red Machine legends Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Tony Perez.
Now, Tsuchiya’s artistic skill is on display at the Florence Community Plaza with life-size bronze statues of a firefighter, a public service worker, and a police officer. The statues were installed recently and are a collaboration between Tsuchiya and Cincinnati-based business Exact Metrology.
“It was a fun change of pace to create the images of the first responders and the public service worker,” said Tsuchiya, who also sculpted the life-size bronze statue of D’Artagnan on the Xavier campus. “I became familiar with their work and equipment. For example, I learned that firefighters’ full gear weighs about 80 pounds. It’s impressive that they can climb tall ladders and carry people with all that gear.
“Though firefighter and police statues are fairly common, I’ve never seen a public service worker immortalized in bronze. So, that was special. Furthermore, I added an interactive feature with the worker statue. The worker is depicted digging the ground with a shovel. I placed a second shovel next to the worker’s statue so that visitors can pretend to dig the ground with the bronze worker.”
Though he’s been producing high-quality sculptures since 1990, Tsuchiya used a slightly different method for the Florence project.
“I’ve been using 3D software, digital scanning, 3D printing and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) to help create sculptures for many years, but the Florence project was an experimental endeavor in using digital scans of actual people to help finish the sculptures,” he said. “Most of my recent sculptures involved capturing the likenesses of retired MLB players including the Cincinnati Reds’ players for Great American Ball Park and the inductees of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
“Scanning those MLB players wasn’t an option for various reasons — the Reds players are depicted as they appeared 45-80 years ago. I would need a time machine to do their life scans. In the case of the NBHOF inductees, their portraits are relief plaques, so scanning is not relevant.”
Tsuchiya said that he planned the general pose of the firefighter, the public service worker and the police officer and girl using a 3D design program. He then asked Matthew Martin and Scott Menne from Exact Metrology to digitally scan actual City of Florence employees.
The firefighter in gear was scanned at the fire station, while the police officer and Martin’s daughter posed together and were scanned at the Florence city headquarters. A friend of the City of Florence posed as the public service worker.
“Exact Metrology used their software to create a 3D digital image of all of them,” Tsuchiya said.
But Tsuchiya said the statues in Florence do not display the actual faces of those who posed for the project. “Although I used the life scans for these statues to represent the equipment and uniforms accurately, I made the statues’ faces fictional,” he said. “Usually, I try to capture the likeness of a specific person, but in the Florence project, I deliberately avoided capturing a specific person.”
After Tsuchiya finished the sculpting, the clay/foam/wood statues were delivered to the Sincerus Bronze foundry in Indianapolis to have them cast in bronze. Tsuchiya said it took about four to five months to complete each sculpture. “That includes everything from concept to bronze finishing,” he added.
Tsuchiya also noted that his co-sculptor, Ray Miller, played a big part in the series of Florence statues. “Ray did much of the sculpting of the firefighter and police gear, and he helped adjust the police officer’s pose,” Tsuchiya said.
Martin pointed out that the land used to create the park was donated by Tom Green, the owner of the Florence Center. He said the vision was to have a park dedicated to the Florence employees with bronze statues of the police and fire departments as well as public works.