Left photos: Marietta Dantonio-Madsen paints APSCUF’s Gradusaurus. She took pictures throughout the process and plans to self-publish a book about the project. Second from right: Dantonio-Madsen visits the finished dinosaur on Front Street in Harrisburg. (Photos courtesy of Marietta Dantonio-Madsen) Far right: A closer look at Gradusaurus.
Marietta Dantonio-Madsen laughed constantly during a recent project.
“I’ve never painted baby dinosaurs,” she said with a chuckle.
The Cheyney University art professor depicted the miniature prehistoric creatures on a much larger reptile: APSCUF’s Tyrannosaurus Rex, part of Harrisburg’s Dinomite Summer outdoor art exhibition. The T-Rex features 14 tiny dinos — one for each State System university — on each side.
Dantonio-Madsen spent eight to 10 hours a day in a frigid storage area on her campus adding academic symbols, a torch, a medallion, and a mortarboard (Her own undergraduate cap is under the foam, fiberglass cloth, and resin.) to the almost-8-foot fiberglass Gradusaurus.
She had from mid-April to mid-May to complete the piece, and she used every day — except for a single-day hiatus for eye surgery.
Visiting the makeshift studio to help were the artist’s husband, fellow faculty members, and students — including a brand-new transfer student who spent three days with Dantonio-Madsen. She also solicited ideas from Cheyney faculty members, said B.J. Mullaney, APSCUF’s Cheyney chapter president.
The project was an opportunity for a university going through challenges to have some fun, showcase talent, and to connect it to fellow institutions in the State System, Mullaney said.
“I know that the faculty were very excited that Cheyney was the university that was able to do the dino,” she said.
This was not Dantonio-Madsen’s first ginormous-animal-painting rodeo. She worked on the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation’s sculpture in Harrisburg’s 2004 Cow Parade. (The bovine now resides in the university’s library.)
“I knew the amount of work,” she said. “And I knew I could do it.”
She looked at the project — for which she volunteered — as an opportunity to give back.
“This was my way to help,” she said. “Through art, I’ve always been able to reach a much larger audience. I am such an advocate of education, and I want everyone to see the advantages of higher education.”
One of Dantonio-Madsen’s biggest challenges while creating the piece was the humidity. It rained during the weeks in the garage, and that plus the cold temperatures slowed the paint’s dry time. Health issues also made ladder work painful.
Dantonio-Madsen offered to paint the dinosaur after APSCUF’s Executive Council approved the sponsorship, which benefits Shalom House in Harrisburg. APSCUF is listed on the plaque at the base of the T-Rex, and the exhibition includes additional opportunities for the association’s exposure.
“It’s good to have a dinosaur representing our professors and students in a positive way,” APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said, alluding to a faculty member being called an “old dinosaur” in March’s budget-appropriations hearings.
Gradusaurus will stand up for higher education near the APSCUF office on Front Street in Harrisburg throughout the summer. APSCUF then will determine its permanent home.
—Kathryn Morton, APSCUF associate director of communications