December 11, 2013

GSU Fighting Tiger Roars with Pride

Sophomore sculpture ‘mother’ helped create the university’s newest tiger

GSU student, Joiya Smith, poses with the new tiger statue along with the artist that created it.

GSU student, Joiya Smith, poses with the new tiger statue
along with the artist that created it.

Grambling State University Media Bureau

GRAMBLING, La. – Joiya Smith is the one person on Grambling State University’s campus with a personal connection to the school’s newest, most dominant tiger sculpture. As an art major, she heard about an opportunity to work with the Houston artist creating the piece and jumped at the opportunity.

Smith spent a summer molding and sculpturing what today stands as GSU’s newest, tallest and most talked about tiger sculpture. Like a proud mother, Smith beamed with pride as GSU President Frank G. Pogue led a short, chilly program Tuesday with the tiger looking down on the podium, one leg reaching out in a fighting stance and reared up on its hind legs.

It isn’t every college student who gets a chance to create something so massive. Smith said the work was “very tedious, and it took a long time,” but she’s grateful for a practical learning opportunity with artist Bridgette Mungeon. “We had to wear googles and breathing masks, especially when we did the resin, and we had to wear gloves …. It was a very dirty job.”

Officially introduced and welcomed on the campus quad, GSU President Frank G. Pogue summarized what the sculpture is already doing, and will be doing. “This statue is designed to bring our university together the way we ought to be together,” said GSU President Frank G. Pogue. “This is going to be the gathering place.”

Calling it a “joyous occasion,” Pogue said the day took “three years and three student government presidents” and “we are finally looking up at the new fighting tiger.”

SGA President Jordan Harvey, a senior business major, represented GSU students and his two SGA predecessors – Channing Gaulden, who worked with the president and the university’s student affairs office to launch the project, and Jonathan Allen, who worked to see the project to its near-final stages.

Pogue noted that students scheduled to graduate on Dec. 20 have taken – or retaken – graduation photographs with the sculpture, saying that will be just one of several ways the sculpture will become a key focal point on campus. He said the sculpture will have many purposes, including faculty and staff enhancing morale by taking a break to sit under the tiger; alumni returning home to cherish the spirit the sculpture represents and a great place for high school athletes to visit to get a sense of the Grambling State pride they’ll be expected to exhibit on and off the court and field.

The huge, 17-foot “fighting tiger” sculpture was officially introduced and welcomed to the campus after a three-year journey that included three student government association presidents and a host of facilities and student affairs employees working with a Houston artist to bring an idea to reality.

Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon was awarded the opportunity to create the university mascot at what has quickly become a new university gathering place. At nearly 15 feet tall, the sculpture is about 17 feet as mounted on the foundation of sculpted rocks that holds the 3,600-pound statue. Using a special digital technology to enhance a traditional art process, she used clay then cast the tiger in bronze.

As a part of the creative process, Mongeon started the work in her Texas studio but the job had to be moved to a warehouse large enough to accommodate the big art cat. That meant visiting a special foundry in Santa Fe, N.M.

“She used a program that told her the dimensions and told her what she needed,” said Smith, noting artist Bridgette Mongeon’s use of some of the latest software technology. “When she took it to the foundry it was all in pieces, probably in about 20 different pieces.”

Like others in the crowd of about 75, Smith took photos with the art she helped create. “It’s a nice feeling, “said Smith, 19, a native of Bogalousa, La. and the 2013-2014 Miss Sophomore. “It makes me prideful, especially for all it represents.”

Mongeon created a blog ( where she kept Gramblinites up-to-date as she, Smith and others went through the process. It was a massive effort involving months of long days and nights in Texas and New Mexico. Starting in June 2012, the sculpture arrived early on Dec. 4, and word spread quickly. Students, faculty, staff and others rushed out to the campus quad, snapping photos even before the sculpture was moved from the flatbed truck to its permanent home.

See the artist’s Facebook photographs at
She the artist’s website at

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton



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