- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2005

Kate Mansperger has big plans for the scowling and muscular turtle statue that stands upright in her parents’ Baltimore County garage.

She plans to adorn the chest of the roughly 5-foot tall, 100-pound fiberglass terrapin with famous pieces of art, including “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, and expects to substitute a turtle head for the well-known ghostly face.

Miss Mansperger, a 1999 graduate of the University of Maryland and a high school art teacher, is one of about 40 artists participating in a university-run project to decorate replicas of the school mascot, the fierce Testudo terrapin.

The statues will be spread across the campus by March. The school plans to auction them in October to raise money for its scholarship program. The program fits with the university’s “Fear the Turtle” marketing campaign and will help mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the College Park campus.

The university now has enough sponsors to help artists buy supplies for about 40 statues, spokeswoman Cassandra Robinson said, but the goal is to have 50 sponsored terrapins on campus.

The university commissioned a Brentwood sculptor to create a statue that was used to cast fiberglass copies. About 80 artists submitted design proposals to the university, many based on themes connected to the university or the state. The list was then winnowed to 50 finalists.

The project will allow the campus to join other communities that have sponsored similar public art project. The District hosted donkeys, elephants and pandas in the past several years, and Baltimore recently auctioned giant painted crabs that were placed through the city.

Many of the artists already have ties to the university, including alumni, staff members and spouses of faculty. Some are amateurs, but others are professional painters and sculptors hoping to get some publicity.

“You do this because of the recognition to have a piece of artwork that is yours out in public,” said Bethesda painter Judy Gilbert Levey, who planned to dress a terrapin in a tuxedo but has yet to receive a sponsor.

Kevin Richardson, a newspaper art director from Columbia, Md., has created numerous designing sculptures for public art shows. His two Testudo statues will reflect is passion for Maryland basketball. One will bear the faces of famous Maryland basketball figures.

Columbia sculptor Matt Scholnick, long inspired by the university’s work on such programs as the Deep Impact comet chaser probe, plans to add a space suit, a spinning universe and perhaps even solar panels to light his terrapin statue, “Celestial Event Turtle.”

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