Art installation for the New Mexico Military Institute

The Path to Achievement Sculpture by Austin Weishel of Honorable Sculptures
The Path to Achievement Sculpture by Austin Weishel of Honorable Sculptures

Originally Published in the Roswell Daily Record on January 21, 2024

“”By Terri Harber

The latest outdoor art installation at the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) is primarily directed toward the students there, said Austin Weishel, the Loveland, Colorado, artist who created two bronze sculptures at the heart of what NMMI refers to as “The Path to Achievement.”

A walkway starts near the Alumni Memorial Chapel and ends by a wall along the northwest corner of North Main Street and West College Boulevard. The walkway is raised in the center, where the two sculptures now stand.

Weishel, of Honorable Sculptures Inc., creates bronze artworks often featuring firefighters, police officers and military personnel. This piece is also meant to inspire achievement as well as promote diversity and equality, he said.

The sculptures at NMMI are of a young man and woman facing one another with their sabers raised above their heads and the sharp tips of these weapons nearly touching. The woman is African-American.

Both figures are meant to be larger than life, figuratively and literally. Each is wearing full military regalia. The man is 9 feet tall and the woman is about 8 feet tall. He described them as being about one-and-a-half times life-size.

”One’s not greater than the other,” Weishel emphasized in a phone interview on Friday.

Both figures hold the same military rank, though what that position might be is not clearly depicted. This is so a young person viewing it can decide what level of achievement these figures have reached and, possibly, further relate to them.

The position of the sabers also serves to close up the height gap between the two sculptures so their figures are the same in overall stature, Weishel noted.

These bronze sculptures went up about a month ago and the artist traveled to Roswell to place them. While here, Weishel also spoke to a group of NMMI’s Intermediate Preparatory Academy students about the installation. The youths in grades 6-8 met with Weishel for a discussion as they all stood next to the sculptures.

“I was impressed with the IPA children,” he said. “It was like talking to mini-adults.”

Weishel also remarked that he was equally impressed with NMMI overall.

On the wall that stands just past the end of the walkway before reaching the North Main-West College corner is advice that further reinforces the message of the installation: “Return With Honor.”

The two cadets depicted intend to “recognize the element of leadership the New Mexico Military Institute provides along with its distinctive academic rigor and physical fitness to develop leaders of tomorrow,” wrote Col. David West, NMMI’s chief of staff. “The two cadets represent all those who have come before and those who will come to accept the challenge of the pathway to achievement.”

The sabers are held in a way that signals they are ready for use. However, the positioning isn’t meant to symbolize battle.

“In our context, the cadet having achieved the merits of education, leadership and being physically fit, stands at the ready to both discharge their fellow alumni who have met the demands of NMMI and to welcome those who desire the same,” West also explained.

Where the path leads

“When one is looking down the path of achievement, there are many obstacles to overcome and barriers to achieve your goals. Holding steadfast to duty brings honor, which in turn will allow achievement,” Weishel stated in his project proposal.

He pointed out that the figures represent “not only some of the most significant students of NMMI’s heritage, but allows any cadet to see themselves within the sculpture.”

The decorative pathway supporting the sculptures was developed by Kent Taylor, NMMI’s director of facilities. While the statues were awarded funding through the New Mexico Art in Public Places Program, money for the pathway itself is the result of donations being collected by the institute’s Alumni Relations Department. That work could be completed mid-year, perhaps sometime in May, West said.

People making their way up and down the path walk under the raised sabers at midpoint. Both the raised sabers and swords, held down their left sides, are of stainless steel “to mimic the color of sabers.”

The creation of smaller sabers bearing the names of donors will be used as a fundraising tool. These objects will be added to the installation.

Weishel also said the pathway could become a place to which NMMI students return after graduation for major life events, such as weddings.

The statues could potentially serve as a recruitment tool for the institute as well as provide NMMI and the community with a beautiful spot “for photo-ops,” he said.

It’s visible from many points along both North Main and West College.

Among other sculptures by Weishel is “Ashes to Answers,” which depicts the working life of arson dogs and the relationship between these dogs and their handlers. It was placed outside an active firehouse in Washington, D.C., in 2013. At that point, the artist was only 23 years old.

He also created the Nevada Firefighters Memorial erected last year at the Nevada State Capitol. Five firefighters are depicted in action. The life-size, highly detailed figures are positioned so people can not only view but get close enough to actually touch the figures.

Weishel worked as a firefighter who handled EMT and Hazmat duties at Windsor Severance Fire Rescue in Colorado while creating bronze art during his off hours. He started doing both professionally in 2009 and left the fire service in 2021.

While onlookers enjoy the beauty of the NMMI campus and the artwork itself, they’ll also be able to recognize “where they are in their own story, on their own path,” he emphasized.””

Originally Published in the Roswell Daily Record on January 21, 2024

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