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Hot Springs artist creates cross for Presbyterian Village

July 27, 2019

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — The Presbyterian Village retirement community in Little Rock recently added a new chapel to its grounds, and decorating the new chapel is a sculpture of a cross that was designed and co-built by a Hot Springs artist.

Mollie Munro was contacted by the director of development for Presbyterian Village, Melissa Jenkins, after members viewed some of her previous sculptures online.

“I hesitated,” Munro told The Sentinel-Record, but after meeting with Jenkins she learned about the retirement community’s “wonderful reputation” and decided to accept the job. “I felt like it was a wonderful project,” Munro said, so she agreed to the commission.

Three designs were created by Munro. She said the Village happened to select her favorite of the three designs to be the sculpture they wanted built.

Munro had help in creating this piece. Her husband, Tod Swiecichowski, and a Little Rock woodworker named Randy Rhea helped her bring her design to life.

Munro said she always liked drawing and making art, so in the late 1990s, she started taking art classes at night at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Swiecichowski was also attending these night classes, and he suggested that they take a woodworking class.

“I was extremely reluctant,” Munro said, adding that “I’m terrified of power tools.” Deciding that since she would be with Swiecichowski, it would be fun, Munro enrolled in the class. “I walked into that show,” Munro said, and after picking up the first tool, “I was just hooked.”

Over the years since then, Munro created numerous sculptures, including two that were accepted for the 55th Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center in 2013. However, her busy schedule — she is director of operations and co-owner of Munro & Co., a local shoe manufacturer — has kept her away from sculpting for several years. As a result, after accepting the cross project, Munro needed to find a workshop to work in.

The workshop that she found was Rhea’s.

The three began working on the sculpture in late April. Calling the piece a “geometry nightmare,” Munro said that the cross is made out of three kinds of wood, constructed out of triangles. Made out of maple, walnut and purpleheart, Munro said building the piece was “really challenging.”

Wanting to make sure they knew what they were doing, and to not waste money, the trio made several practice crosses first from less expensive types of wood. Explaining why she chose those three kinds of woods, Munro said that the color purple is important to Christians, and contrast between the maple and walnut make the piece pop.

The sculpture was recently presented to the Village. Munro said they had intended to have the piece finished earlier, but the humidity had caused them to have to do some extra work on the final finish. The group did have the finished sculpture ready by the presentation, though.

“It was lovely,” Munro said about the presentation. Saying that commissioned work is nerve-wracking, “while your client sees a model and materials, its’s not real until the piece is finished, and it never looks exactly how you think it will.” Munro said that the trio is “so relieved they liked it.”

Munro also said she is happy with how the piece turned out. “I’m extremely happy with how it turned out,” Munro said, before giving credit to Swiecichowski and Rhea. “It was a complete group effort,” Munro said.


Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com

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