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Akron native unveils sculpture at Pro Football Hall of Fame

8/21/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Photo courtesy of the Clapper Family
CANTON — Denver artist Michael Clapper returned to his home turf to unveil his 25-foot-tall steel sculpture, “Birth of the NFL,” at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 1.

Clapper graduated from Copley High School in 1970. He moved to Denver in 1995, but many of his family members continue to live and own small businesses in the Akron area, he said. Working at his uncle’s cabinet shop growing up, he received an education in confidence, he said.

“It gave me the foundation and confidence to follow my dreams in the art world,” he said.

His “Birth of the NFL” sculpture is the first in a series titled The Eleven, a $2.2 million multi-year project of ArtsinStark and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, according to ArtsinStark officials.

The public art series is intended to depict the 11 greatest moments in pro football history, all within walking distance of one another in Downtown Canton, according to ArtsinStark officials.

The 11 moments are from “Where Greatness Lives,” the 50th anniversary book of the Hall of Fame.

Over a year ago, Clapper won the $150,000 commission from among more than 80 artists who applied to create the first moment.

Construction of his sculpture took around three months, he said. The piece was transported to Canton on a flat-bed truck to be installed. On-site assembly took about three days.

His piece was installed on the sidewalk by the Frank T. Bow Building, the former site of Ralph Hay’s Hupmobile dealership, where the NFL was created on Sept. 17, 1920, according to ArtsinStark officials.

The sculpture is composed of a steel I-beam pedestal, a stainless steel spheroid and a letter composition created from stainless steel and dichroic glass.

Working with the glass medium was a first for Clapper, who has also installed public works in the City of El Paso for the University of Texas and at a light rail station in Denver, among others, he said.

The glass shifts in color as the viewer walks around the sculpture, Clapper said. “I wanted something that would really pop,” he added.

To represent the birth of the National Football League, Clapper said he wanted to use the form of a football as the shell or seed. He wanted to have the letters in the acronym be the nucleus, he added.

For a list of all 11 moments and more about the project, visit www.artsinstark.com.

— By Ariel Hakim

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