James Motter / The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind create 'I Love You' sculpture using handprints

Students from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind created a sculpture in the Vista that combines handprints from members of the school and local community into a hand making the symbol for “I Love You” in sign language.

The sculpture, located at the corner of Lincoln and Senate Streets, was funded by the arts in basic curriculum project of the South Carolina Arts Commission and the school's private foundation, the South Carolina School for Deaf and Blind Commission. 

Josh Padgett, the fine arts coordinator at the School for the Deaf and the Blind in Spartanburg, first came up with the idea and design of the sculpture with students and art teachers a couple years back.

“We wanted something that represented the school,” Padgett said. 

Beyond representing the school, they wanted to craft a universal sign of love so even someone who is not well-versed in sign language can still easily internalize the symbol in passing, Padgett said.

He explained the process artist Bob Doster employed in helping the students craft the sculpture. It began by outlining students and community members' hands with sharpie on sheets of stainless steel Bob brought to the school.

“Students would put their hands on the metal, they would trace their hands, and then once their hands were traced with a sharpie, the students would put on welding gear, like a mask, jackets and pants, and then the students would use a welding torch under the direction of Bob,” Padgett said. 

Doster, a University of South Carolina alumnus, has been a teaching art in schools since he was an undergraduate at USC and has a history of working with the deaf and blind community through art. During college, Doster made the topographical map for the school so the blind could identify buildings on campus. 

Despite his long and renowned history of artistry, Doster was blown away by the kids at the School for the Deaf and the Blind.

“I’m amazed at just how positive and how they’re able to do all the things that they are able to accomplish.” Doster said. “I’m just thoroughly amazed, and I enjoyed working with those kids.”

Erecting the sculpture in the Vista would not have been possible without the help from One Columbia.

“At One Columbia, we are a nonprofit that acts like an office of cultural affairs on behalf of the city, and we are funded by the city to do the work that we do to promote arts and culture,” Lee Snelgrove, executive director of One Columbia, said.

In order to get the sculpture set up in its current location, One Columbia worked not only with the school’s foundation, but also with the Vista Guild, various city departments, a contractor, an engineer and even a fabricator.

To celebrate the completion of the piece, Snelgrove said the school brought a choir of students along with leaders from the school's foundation and the president of school himself. At the celebration, they cut a ceremonial ribbon in honor of the piece that is now a part of the city of Columbia.

The school also built a sculpture in Spartanburg and is currently working on one for Charleston. Doster is continuing his inspirational “hand artistry” in Illinois where he is helping students create a biplane sculpture.

Located in the Vista, the “I Love You” Sculpture stands as a beacon for how arts can spread positivity throughout a community.


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