Making a Monument: The Peyton Manning Statue

Part 1 – Planning

Indianapolis firefighter and Indy Art Forge owner Ryan Feeney contacted the Creative Works team in Spring 2016 to aid his efforts in winning the official bid to design and construct the now-standing Peyton Manning statue outside of Lucas Oil Stadium. It was after countless hours working on mock 3D models, maquettes and shop tours that eventually led to Ryan winning the bid to construct the statue, and for Creative Works to work along him throughout the entire project.

With our place in the project set in stone our next step was to meet the model himself. In August 2016, our sculptor Martin Kuntz, along with Creative Works president Armando Lanuti, Ryan and a few Colts staff members flew to Tennessee International Airport on Colts’ owner Jim Irsay’s private jet to meet Peyton Manning for a private photo shoot. The shoot lasted around 40 minutes in a private room within the airport. During this time, Peyton suited up in his full Colts’ gameday gear. To sell his poses, Peyton shouted plays and threw passes as though he were back on the field in Lucas Oil Stadium. With cameras capturing every angle of the action, Martin was ready to proceed to the next step.

Peyton Manning Photo Shoot
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Part 2 – Digital Development

Upon making landfall back in the Hoosier state, we hit the ground running. The process of selecting the appropriate pose was tedious. Which shot(s) capture the essences of Peyton Manning’s character; his dedication to the sport; his athleticism? This was to be a testament to his time in Indianapolis; this pose meant everything. After several conversations with all parties involved, it was decided that his mid-throw pose with a grin running ear-to-ear was the perfect choice.

With the pose decided, Martin looked to several reference shots to begin developing his 3D model. Essentially, this 3D model was the digital foundation of the sculpture to be. More countless hours were spent in AutoDesk Mudbox, a 3D modeling program, molding out the base details of the highly decorated quarterback. At the end of this step, Martin created a “cut” file in ArtCam, another 3D modeling program, that was used to bring Peyton’s digital likeness to life.

Peyton Manning 3D Model
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Part 3 – Sculpting

This is the part where the artists started to get hands on with Peyton. Well, kind of. With the 3D model in hand, Martin began the process of constructing the statue’s foam foundation. With the help of the previously mentioned cut file and Creative Works’ CNC router, Martin began to mechanically carve out portions of the statue section by section.

Next, the statue was pieced together and placed on a metal armature to hold it in place. Here’s where Martin’s talent came into play. With several steel brushes, metal combs and files, Martin began to refine the details in the statue that the CNC router wasn’t able to capture—wrinkles, padding, facial features, wristbands, etc. Days of work resulted in a scaled up replica of what Martin had crafted digitally. For added protection and design stability, a fireproof hard coat was applied to the entirety of the statue.

With the statue standing at a whopping 9-feet-6-inches-tall and weighing around 50-pounds, the finished foam foundation was shipped to Indy Art Forge where Ryan was ready to begin clay sculpting. Over the course of months, Ryan applied close to 300-pounds of clay to the foam figure, hand carving in facial detail, jersey ripples, numbers, letterings; everything needed to make this statue resemble the football icon. It was here the statue went through a number of revisions when Ryan invited Colts figureheads to inspect his work. Ryan’s work was meticulous, but he was willing to do whatever it took for this statue to properly honor one of his football heroes.

Peyton Manning Statue
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Part 4 – Bronzing

This was probably the hardest part to witness in this process. Imagine watching something you’ve worked so hard on—spent countless, meticulous hours detailing and revising—cut into piece right before your eyes. It’s a tough sight to behold, but a requirement when it comes to applying bronze to a statue of this size.

During this portion of the project, Ryan’s clay statue was sent to Sincerus Bronze Art Center in Indianapolis. From there, the completed clay statue was cut into 18 separate sections for the sake of easy handling during the casting procedure. Once cut, each piece was covered in liquid rubber to create mold. After the rubber hardened, wax was applied to the inside of the newly formed negative. Then, a ceramic shell was formed around the outside of the wax once it settled. Finally, the wax was burned away leaving a ceramic mold to hold the molten bronze.

This process is extremely labor intensive and time consuming. Following the casting of each bronze piece, each section was thoroughly cleaned and inspected for any imperfections. The task of reassembling the statue was just a laborious as the sculpting; think of it as assembling a towering, 1,000-pound metal puzzle—definitely not your everyday jigsaw puzzle.

Once all the pieces were in place and everything was up to snuff with Colts’ vision, there was only one thing left to do…

Part 5 – The Reveal

Needless to say, October 7, 2017 became a very special day to every party involved in this project. This, of course, was the day that Manning’s statue was finally revealed to the public. At 3:00 p.m., in a crowd of roughly 11,000 fans, several celebrities and former Colts figureheads took to the stage to pay their respects to “The Sheriff” sitting next to the podium. After the likes of former Colts player Jeff Saturday, legendary Colts coach Tony Dungy, former TV personality David Letterman and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finished their speeches highlighting the career of “Number 18”, the culmination of everyone’s work came to a peak as the tapestry was pulled from the statue.

Peyton Manning Statue
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The entirety of Downtown hummed as the crowd erupted in excited cheers; fireworks burst in the late afternoon sky; and a blanket of relief covered Ryan and the Creative Works team. Shortly after the cheer began to subside, Peyton stepped to the podium to break his silence as the crowd’s voices quickly hushed:

It was both an honor and privilege to be one of you. There’s not enough time or words to express the enormous gratitude that I feel today. But let me start by thanking Ryan Feeney for sculpting a lasting reminder of my tenure as a Colt…There is simply no way to audibly express what this all means to me. Again, thank you Indianapolis, thank you Indiana. I am proud to have been a citizen of this town, and as I told the world, a year and a half ago, I will always be a Colt. Thank you very much.