Students at Oak Mountain Elementary have watched intently for months as their art teacher, Carol Popwell, sketched and painted on every detail of the design she created for the Vulcan statue that will be on display as part of the Vulcans on Parade art installation project.
Oak Mountain Elementary School is the first public K-12 school to be selected to host a Vulcan statue as part of Vulcans on Parade, which began in 2015 as a project of Project Corporate Leadership. To date, nine miniature replicas of the iconic statue have been adopted, painted, given their own name, and installed at locations throughout Birmingham. The Vulcan at OMES is entitled Leadership Starts Here.
Popwell was looking for a sculpture project that could highlight Oak Mountain Elementary’s commitment to the Leader in Me process. She first learned of the Vulcans on Parade project from Trisha Cooper, who works in the school’s front office. Her husband, Chris Cooper, served as a member of the Project Corporate Leadership team who first envisioned the statues as a way to highlight Birmingham’s visitor highlights – such as Railroad Park and the Birmingham Zoo. Cooper also serves on the Vulcan Junior Board of Directors along with Michael Askew, whose wife Sara Askew teaches at Oak Mountain Elementary.
Popwell said the two OMES employee’s connection to the Vulcan’s on Parade project, along with the fact that 3rd grade students visit Vulcan to learn more about the founding of the City of Birmingham, made this project a great option to pursue.
“Having a mini-Vulcan housed at OMES reminds us of what we have learned and gives us a creative way to honor our school, city and community,” said Popwell. “Just as the Vulcan represented Birmingham at the 1904 World’s Fair to show the leadership that our city had in the iron and steel industry, the OMES Vulcan shows how our students are learning to be leaders at school and preparing to be the future leaders of our community and beyond.”
To receive a Vulcans on Parade statue, Popwell had to submit an application that included her design idea which would take the plain fiberglass sculpture to a true work of art.
After being selected to receive a statue, Popwell began to bring her design to life. Each week, students passed by in the hallway were she was working on sketching and painting the design onto the white fiberglass mold of the miniature Vulcan.
Popwell said the process of seeing the design go from a blank slate to a completed project is something she feels was important for her student’s to see.
“The biggest lesson for the students was watching a professional piece of artwork go from beginning to completion,” Popwell said.
Principal Debbie Horton said she loves that the design of the statue not only honors the history of the City of Birmingham but also to the unique culture of the school and the Oak Mountain community. A reference to the “GOOM” spirit tagline, the school’s bluebird mascot, Oak Mountain eagle mascot, and balloons that pay tribute to deceased teachers Maggie Russell and Lynn Purser are special touches that make the statue special.
Jace Brainard, a kindergarten students in Ms. Janice Lazzare’s class, already recognized one significant detail of the design.
“It has an eagle,” he said. “That means Oak Mountain.”
“There is really a lot of rich history not only in Birmingham, but in our own community,” said Horton. “My hope is that one day when they come back to visit this school with their own child that they will look at the designs on the Vulcan statue and reflect on it and pass the history down to their children.”
Horton said the significance of being selected as the first school to host a Vulcans on Parade statue is an honor.
“Education has to be a part of the story that Vulcan tells,” said Horton. “It means the world that we are the front-runner in that arena of telling the story of Birmingham’s greatness.”
Melvin Barrera De La Cerda, a Calera High School student who is taking Collision Repair Technology at the Career Technical Educational Center, got the privilege of adding some shine to the statue.
“I got to clear-coat the statue,” explained Burrough. “It was pretty simple like doing the head and the arms, but getting in between the legs and some other areas with the gun was pretty difficult. It looks amazing.”
All about the OMES Vulcan—Leadership Starts Here (by Carol Popwell)
Front designs: The front of Vulcan represents the city of Birmingham. The calves and feet are bricks that form a strong foundation for him to stand on just like a good education gives students a strong foundation for becoming good leaders. He has strong and sturdy steel beams for legs. The front shows the railroad that came through central Alabama in the late 1800’s. Sloss Furnace is another icon and symbol of Birmingham as it represents the iron industry that helped found our city. Birmingham is often referred to as the Magic City due to it being built so quickly. It appeared like magic! There is a sign downtown with this on it. Even the silver dots represent a classic song called Stars Fell on Alabama. The state and “Heart of Dixie” resides over the chest of Vulcan. And, Vulcan’s arms are covered in flames to complement the heat from Sloss and evolve into feathers on the back.
Back designs: The back of Vulcan represents the community of Oak Mountain. Our community sports teams and mascot is the Oak Mountain Eagle. There is overwhelming support and pride in all things Oak Mountain! You can see a silhouette of students in their excitement! GOOM! (Go Oak Mountain!) Our pride comes out in the local saying that Oak Mountain is OUR MOUNTAIN! A majestic mountain displays an OM pennant. And, flames from the front morph into eagle wings on Vulcan’s arms on the back.
Pedestal designs: Oak Mountain Elementary is a Leader In Me school. We promote the 7 habits of being a good leader. Every student and adult works to incorporate these habits into our daily lives. Here you see a silhouette of children leading and supporting one another as they excitedly move forward towards the school! An elementary school is usually where a child’s formal education begins, it can also be the place when they are first given opportunities to work with their peers to gain leadership skills. It all starts here! Bluebirds grow and mature here at OMES! Supporting one another and having each other’s back and singing one another’s praises as we celebrate together! Don’t miss the little shout outs for those who have left us—purple balloon for Mrs. Maggie Russell, pink balloon for Mrs. Lynn Purser and those who have battled breast cancer, and even a little acorn for the “Oakies!”