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Steel panther embodies Mead High’s community

Sculptor Rick Davis kneels beside his latest work, a steel figure of a panther, on Dec. 18. The mascot of Mead High School sits outside the school gym. (Jesse Tinsley)
Sculptor Rick Davis kneels beside his latest work, a steel figure of a panther, on Dec. 18. The mascot of Mead High School sits outside the school gym. (Jesse Tinsley)

Sculptors don’t often receive raucous applause – especially from hundreds of teenagers. But at the Mead High School holiday assembly on Dec. 18, shouts and cheers rang out for sculptor Rick Davis.

The artist had recently completed a steel statue for the school. Thanks to Davis, Mead students can now say, “Meet me at the panther.”

Principal Ken Russell explained, “We didn’t have a panther monument anywhere on our campus.”

When Davis heard school administrators were looking to commission a sculpture, he eagerly offered his services. “I’d been looking for an opportunity to do a public piece,” he said.

Davis is no stranger to the Mead campus. His son Seamus graduated from the school last year, and his son Jack is a junior.

He’s also no stranger to art. Davis started welding at 12 and has enjoyed metalwork ever since. His work incorporates a variety of themes, from Celtic designs to yoga and Sanskrit imagery. He’s currently working on a life-size Ganesh (a Hindu deity), which will be displayed at Spokane Yoga Shala.

His skill and his connection to Mead proved to be a great match with additional benefits to the school. “I’m more affordable than Harold Balazs, because I’m unknown,” Davis said, laughing.

He spent 6 1/2 months crafting the 642-pound panther. Spokane Valley business Wagstaff Inc. donated the scrap steel for the piece.

From nose to tail, the sleek statue measures nearly 7 feet in length. Davis sculpted the panther in mid-stride. The big cat’s eyes seem to glow and his open mouth reveals fearsome fangs. Installed on an 8-foot base near the east entrance to the school, the sculpture provides a focal point for school pride.

“The panther really represents unity,” Russell said. “Our 1,600 students and 150 staff members come from all different backgrounds, but we are all panthers. It’s a great way to symbolize our sense of community.”

At the recent assembly, Davis beamed as the students clapped for him. “I’m excited,” he said. “It’s my first real public piece.”