Not long ago, Michele Wagner got a call from her son’s school principal, who said she had something of an odd request: Would 9-year-old Austin want be a hair model?
Wagner, though, didn’t see the request as odd at all.
Austin, who was bald as a cue ball until about age 2, is proud of his now-thick brown mop — hair so striking, his mom said, that strangers stop to compliment him all the time.
That, then, is how photos of Austin and his wavy locks came to hang on a board inside the Dublin Recreation Center, serving as both guide and inspiration to the sculptor who is crafting what will become the city’s next piece of public art.
Westerville artist Michael Tizzano created the design and is now bringing to life the work, Town Pump Sculpture. The bronze-and-stone piece, expected to be finished by next fall, will be installed in the plaza at the northwest corner of Bridge and High streets in historic Dublin.
The sculpture — featuring a replica of the water pump that stood there in the early 1900s — will include a fountain. It will depict a young boy trying hard to pump as his older sister looks on so lovingly that she fails to realizes she is tipping the water out of the bucket even as he fills it.
Although public art is commonplace in Dublin, the $156,000 project stands out in that Tizzano will do virtually all the work in public view. Only the casting will happen off-site, at a foundry.
The artist has a makeshift studio set up in a hallway of the recreation center, where this week he has been working on a quarter-scale model made of wax-based clay.
At this stage, the look can be a bit off-putting: Pins and rods that serve as guides for where welds will be placed on the sculpture poke through the bodies and heads of the clay figures — a sight that inspires jokes about acupuncture and voodoo from passers-by.
Plus, the clay figures are naked.
"Yes," Tizzano said with a laugh, "they’ll eventually have clothes on."
During the next few months, the artist will work on the life-size figures. When not being worked on, the figures will remain on display behind glass.
Sara Ott, who oversees the project for the city, said Tizzano will work during the next eight months at the recreation center and in the adjacent arts barn.
"For people to be able to see it go from this small model to the wonderful bronze sculpture it will be," Ott said, "that’s the kind of process that really brings art to life and makes it meaningful."
Although the hair on the boy in the sculpture will resemble Austin Wagner’s, nothing else will.
The boy figure is actually a compilation of a boy Tizzano saw trying to work a pump in the Hocking Hills region one day and of Colin Hoffman and Trenton Allen, both kindergartners at Dublin’s Deer Run Elementary, which Austin also attends.
"I just couldn’t find exactly what I wanted," Tizzano said. "That just makes it all the more creative."
He spotted the Dublin boys one day while teaching an art class.
The girl in the sculpture is modeled after Mackenzie Mescher, a seventh-grader at St. Brigid of Kildare in Dublin.
Tizzano, who had worked with Mackenzie before, said she’s a natural.
"Her smile makes the whole thing come together. It’s perfect."
Tizzano will work again Monday at the Dublin Recreation Center, 5600 Post Rd., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then, once he starts work again in January, his daily schedule can be found at www.dublinohiousa.gov.