Shandon Baptist Church to Unveil Whale of a Sculpture

November 29, 2007

COLUMBIA, SC – November 29, 2007 – Shandon Baptist Church will dedicate a “whale” of a sculpture Dec. 2 at 11:15 a.m.—Jonah and the whale, that is. The 1500 pound bronze artwork was crafted by Columbia-native, Robert Allison and becomes an integral part of Shandon’s outdoor baptistery.

The story behind the sculpture is a fascinating blend of art and technology, history and spirituality. It began as Shandon prepared to build a new facility. The architect recommended incorporating various forms of art into the design because the early church depended on the visuals in religious art to tell Bible stories.
Today, religious art brings beauty and visual enhancement to the church as well as attracting children and those who may never have heard or read Bible stories.

Dr. Dick Lincoln, Shandon’s Pastor, is making a concerted effort to bring art back into the church, selecting and commissioning pieces that combined both Old and New Testament stories.

“Our search for a world-class sculptor led us to Robert Allison. We were attracted to his sculptures for the way he captured facial expressions and brought life to the art,” recalls Dr. Lincoln.

Allison is a fourth generation Columbian. He graduated from Dreher High School and the University of South Carolina. Although he now works and lives in Colorado, his family roots run deep in the capital city.

The sculpture was commissioned in January of this year. According to Allison, a piece of this magnitude would typically take well over a year to complete, but was finished in just nine months. The bronze sculpture is made up of over 125 pieces welded together to form Jonah and the whale. Weighing over 1500 pounds, the piece is nine feet at its tallest point. “There’s more metal in that whale than in most small cars,” says Allison.

Allison’s excitement about crafting a work for his hometown was magnified by the supernatural experience that occurred as he worked on bringing Jonah’s face to life. “Usually I work from a picture or if none is available, most of my faces look the same,” explained Allison. “Obviously, I didn’t have a picture of Jonah. But as I worked on the piece, the face just came out and didn’t look like any other face I’ve ever sculpted. I’m pretty sure someone else guided my hands.”

The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony. Shandon Baptist Church recently celebrated their 100 anniversary and is at 5250 Forest Drive.