Ever since the installation of “Fearless Girl,” a four-foot bronze statue of a little girl facing the “Charging Bull” on Wall Street, her image has taken the social media world by storm. Boston-based State Street Global Advisors, which is an advocacy group for gender diversity at companies, initiated the statue that was cast by artist Kristen Visbal. The girl, modeled after Visbal’s friend’s 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old Latina, was installed between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on March 8, or International Women’s Day.
“Fearless Girl,” who stands confident with her hands on her hips directly across from the financial symbol of Wall Street, has attracted attention on Instagram accounts all over the world, as well as famous women like Chelsea Clinton and Jessica Chastain, who have both praised its placement. A Change.org petition to make the statue permanent (it was originally only given a one-week permit) already has more than 17,000 signatures.
But the center of all of this national attention, the 50-inch sculpture herself, was actually worked on at the New Arts Foundry studio in Hampden. Open for more than 30 years, the studio casts bronze—everything from Ray Lewis outside of M&T Bank Stadium to Jim Henson at the University of Maryland—using the ancient art of the lost-wax casting process. We talked to New Arts Foundry metal finisher Nicholas Edwards about the process of helping to create the statue, his reaction to its international reception, and what he thinks for the future of the “Fearless Girl.”
How were you approached about the project?
I work for the New Arts Foundry they had previously worked with the artist Kristen in the past. I just thought the entire idea and concept was awesome and I was honored to be a part of it. Basically, I am one of three metal finishers there, but I did the majority of the finishing work on this 'Fearless Girl' sculpture.
Talk about what exactly you did with the sculpture.
It is called lost-wax casting. The artist will sculpt it out of clay and then a rubber and plaster mold are taken from that sculpture. Then that mold is filled with a liquid wax to get the profile of the inside of the mold. Once you have the sculpture fully waxed, then you begin 'gating it up' where you’ll be pouring actual metal in. You coat wax in several layers of this ceramic coating called slurry, which builds up this really strong layer around wax so it can stand up to heat. Then you crack the shell and what’s left is the bronze casting. That’s where I come in to do the metal finishing and and weld all the pieces together. Then artists add patina to get the exact colors they want.
What do you use to finish and smooth out the bronze?
We start with an electrical grinder to cut off all the spures and gates on it to release any air bubbles. We work from the biggest tools to smallest tools. You’ll do finishing with pneumatic grinder to shape the metal and grind it out to where you need it. You’ll weld it together to get it to the preexisting texture the artists wanted. You want the illusion it was all in one piece the whole time even though it was made in several pieces.
How long did you have the sculpture in the studio?
This was a rushed project so we only had it in the finishing department for a week or week-and-a-half. When it was ready, Kristen came in and gave us some suggestions and then they stayed there for the patina process. We did a day of nitpicking. And then it left New Arts Foundry on Friday the week before it was installed. Yeah it was very fast. Plus, we had to be super secretive about the project.
When you first saw the girl’s look, what did you think?
I thought it was amazing. I loved the sculpture to begin with and I didn’t even know the conceptual idea behind it. I thought it would have been amazing just being placed in the middle of nowhere, but once I learned it was going in front of the bull, it took it to a whole different level. She shows such a dominance and power. She’s got a very prideful look.
Have you gotten a chance in installed yet?
Not yet, but I can’t wait. My girlfriend’s family lives up in New York so I plan on going up to visit in the next week. There was a huge team of people that were a part of this, so I was happy to just play one small role.
Are you surprised with how popular of a phenomenon it’s become?
Very much so. It’s so wild and I had no idea it would take off like this. We work on pieces all the time and, initially, I thought it was just another work of art. I had no idea it was going to get such nationwide recognition. Women are awesome. I think the timeliness of it was perfect and it’s just kind of a big surprise to the world and a very powerful piece. It brings up a lot of social commentary on issues that really matter.
Do you know what the future of the sculpture is?
I’ve heard so many different things. I was told a week, a month, a year. I would love it to be a permanent installation because I think it goes great right there. Everyone here is really proud. I remember the day after International Women’s Day, my boss said, ‘Nick you’ve gotta come see of all these videos.’ And we just watched these videos of people posing with the sculpture over and over again and we all just couldn’t believe it.