Wolfpack basketball player becomes stand-in for Roman god at NC Art Museum

January 12, 2019

North Carolina State University’s Wyatt Walker is a graduate student, filling his time playing basketball for the Wolfpack. Lately, he’s taken on the new task of becoming the North Carolina Museum of Art’s right-hand man.

Walker, who wears number 33, is a 6-foot, 9-inch forward for the Wolfpack. His right arm will soon be a work of art, thanks to a text from a friend at the museum last year.

“They are making a sculpture of a Greek god,” Walker recalled being told. “They’re looking for someone who looks like it. Can you do it?”

At first, Wyatt believed the call was a prank. Recently, though, he lent a hand and arm to the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Bacchus Project.

“There’s a lot of work involved in basketball and stuff, but it wasn’t easy sitting there for 20 minutes with your arm above your head,” Walker said.

Bacchus is an ancient statue of the Roman god of wine. The statue is the sum of many parts, including a second-century Roman torso, the head of another ancient sculpture and arms, legs and other aspects that were put together in the late 16th or early 17th century.

Bacchus’ right arm was lost in the late 1940s, but conservationists now want to complete the statue using Walker’s right arm as the model.

Walker said modeling for the statue is very different from the attention he receives on the basketball court.

“You’re in a big arena, playing basketball, and there might be 20,000 people, but you’re not up close to them or anything,” he said. “This is eight or nine people, but everyone is super involved, hands on. It was definitely a different experience, but a fun one.”

The statue is 6 feet, 8 inches tall, and Walker’s frame and muscles fit the bill for the replacement arm. Posed with his arm raised, and holding grapes, a 3D image was created to give the artist a blueprint from which to work.

“They brought a chair in, they had my name engraved on it and everything. I just sat there and stuck my arm up. There was a whole team of people,” Walker said.

The Bacchus Conservation Project has worked with scholars, scientists, engineers and artists. Now they can add an athlete to that list.

“My parents were like, ‘This is so cool. You have to do this. This is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing,’” Walker said.

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