Although the latest masterpiece created by one of Rochelle’s very own is situated miles away, it has a special meaning for all veterans, including the artist himself.
Fran Volz unveiled his bronze statue, “An Eternal Flame for All Veterans,” at the Field of Honor in Loves Park for a Veteran’s Day commemoration. The ceremony included a 21-gun salute with several dignitaries.
“Part of the significance of this piece is that I’m an Air Force veteran myself,” Volz said. “So, it’s an honor to sculpt a statue that represents the spirit of our time and service.”
For Volz, the bronze statue is added to an already long list of works of art the Rochelle resident has completed. Many in the Rochelle community have known his snow sculptures in years past, along with straw sculptures and most recently the Marilyn Monroe mural situated on the side of a Cherry Avenue business downtown. This statue makes his tenth bronze sculpture since 2001.
As it turns out, Volz had been sought out because of his previous 12-foot bronze eternal flame he had sculpted for Arlington Heights, which is a suburb of Chicago.
He explained the entire Field of Honor had been built by the late Art Anderson. After Anderson’s passing, his sons reviewed the original plans and discovered one item was missing — the eternal flame. Wanting to fulfill their father’s dream and rather than having an actual gas fueled flame, the sons searched the internet for sculptors; they found Volz’s bronze flame sculpture in Arlington Heights and contacted Volz. That was in 2015.
After months spent designing a flame and pedestal, the project was set to begin in August of 2016 but ran into a roadblock, putting everything on hold.
“The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency halted the project … the berm, or hill the flame would be installed on was once a landfill,” he said. “Loves Park had to dig up the entire hill, then dig down another three feet and place a membrane over it and fill it all back to the original level of the hill with dirt and gravel, topped with grass sod.”
Once the hill had been reconstructed, the project picked up where it left off and Volz got to work, first starting with a small clay model then making a mold of the full-scale statue.
“Bronze statues are hollow … exactly like a chocolate Easter bunny. You bite off the ears and see it’s hollow with one-quarter inch thick chocolate walls,” Volz explained. “You want to achieve this same thing with your statue with one-quarter inch bronze walls. The secret is wax.”
Volz said constructing the statue was done in sections with plaster, topped with multiple layers of wax applied by brush. The plaster is then “popped out,” recreating the full original sculpture made of wax, but is hollow.
The next step was to the metal foundry, which took about two months to convert the wax statue into bronze. It weighs 400 pounds.
With the bronze sculpture completed, Volz is on to the next project — the Rockford snow competition. There will be about 75 sculptors for the event and Volz is in charge of making the snow blocks for the sculpting teams.
Currently he is assembling equipment in the former Moore’s Hardware building that will be used to construct the snow blocks for the event in January at Sinnissippi Park.
Volz said another possible project is a bronze statue for the Rochelle VFW that will be permanently located at Lawnridge Cemetery.