Marketing Major Learns Metalworking, Creates Public Sculpture

“Sunflowers” bike rack designed and made by UA student Madison Grooters, River District Park, downtown Tuscaloosa, May 2023. Photo courtesy M. Grooters

Madison Grooters, a 2023 graduate in marketing at UA, found herself immersed in a new public sculpture project last spring, something she didn’t expect but soon got very excited about.

Students in Professor Craig Wedderspoon’s sculpture classes have taken on a variety of local and even statewide public sculpture projects over the years. UA sculpture students have designed giant steel flowers and benches in local parks, bike racks in Alberta City and at Government Plaza, and sculptured nature education panels along a Northport hiking trail. There’s even a collection of Southern literature-based bronzes in Monroeville, Alabama, commemorating some of Alabama’s famous writers.

Last spring, students were given a choice of projects and Grooters decided she wanted to design and create a city bike rack.

Because she’s always loved to design and build things, “and also loved physics and math,” she said, Grooters started out at UA as a mechanical engineering major before switching to marketing. She also had already taken classes in 3-D design and sculpture, so, although this would be a new experience, she was well prepared for her move into metalworking.

Grooters used Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create the project proposal – a sunflower bike rack – she presented to the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa. “They loved the idea and chose it for the River District Park that was under construction at the time,” she said.


Once she began putting together the actual sculpture, her work became much more hands-on. She worked first with a scale model. “When it came time to build, I did everything with a pen and paper. Even when I needed to figure out a three-dimensional shape, I would make a paper model out of construction paper and then just measure the scale model for dimensions.”

Grooters designed the specific characteristics of each “sunflower” as she built the bike rack. “Each flower has a different shape and design for the ‘leaves’ on the stem,” she explained. “I came up with dozens of iterations in my sketchbook, then narrowed them down to the ones I liked the most. I then drew them all out in chalk on the floor of the shop to scale and measured the lengths of steel rods I would need for each shape. As I started bending the rodding into the shapes, I would just lay a rod on top of my chalk drawing to make sure I was bending it correctly.”

Madison Grooters giving UA art campers a tour of the art foundry, June 2023

She spent the rest of the spring semester and the first part of the summer creating the bike rack, and finally got to see her finished work installed in May at Tuscaloosa’s River District Park, at the foot of Greensboro Avenue, downtown.

Just a few months after graduation, Madison Grooters currently works as a full-time foundry specialist in the sculpture area of the department of art and art history. Now she’ll be able to guide new students as they discover and explore the creativity of sculpture at UA.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in art history and studio art, visit our Degree Programs page.