Sept. 25, 2014, marks the 30-year anniversary of Irving’s Mustangs of Las Colinas — one of the world’s largest equine sculptures. In recognition of the mustangs’ 30th birthday, “City Spectrum” revisits the history of this local treasure.
From the tip of Africa to the top of Norway — ask Museum Guide Mary Higbie and she can attest that people come to Irving from all over the world to be absorbed in the breathtaking beauty of the larger-than-life bronze sculptures. While many locals are acquainted with the splendor of the nine wild mustangs galloping across the granite stream, very few know the sculpture’s treasured history.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dallas businessman Ben H. Carpenter undertook the task of converting his family ranch into a world-class residential and business development called Las Colinas. To reflect the state’s natural, untamed past, Carpenter commissioned African wildlife artist Robert Glen to create the work in 1976. Glen spent a year researching and studying the history of the mustangs to better understand his subject. There were no more purebred mustangs in America, but he found that modern mustangs in southern Spain most closely reflected the physical and genetic make-up of the horses that the Spanish first brought to North America centuries ago.
“I don’t want to put words into Mr. Carpenter’s mouth, but I think he thought of mustangs as hard-working, dedicated and determined,” said Higbie. “I imagine that he thought those were similar attributes of Texans.”
Working from his studio in Nairobi, Kenya, Glen made 47 small-scale models of mustangs in various poses to help him work out the design of the sculpture. He then made half-life-size models of the selected nine horses. For the next step, Glen made fiberglass molds of these models and shipped them to a foundry in England. The foundry used the molds for scaling and measurement in creating one-and-a-half-life-size foam models. The artist then added layers of plasticine to the surface of the foam models to sculpt the fine details of the mustangs’ bodies. He coated the soft plasticine with layers of resin to harden it so it could withstand the rigors of the mold-making process.
After an elaborate course of creating positive and negative molds, the foundry completed the bronze casting in November 1981. The mustangs were shipped by air from England to Irving, and after the intricate procedure of mounting the figures, the Mustangs of Las Colinas sculpture was dedicated upon completion of the building of Williams Square on Sept. 25, 1984.
The story of the Mustangs of Las Colinas did not stop with its creation. In the past 30 years, the famous sculpture has welcomed countless visitors from all over the world, served as the backdrop for thousands of prom pictures and hosted hundreds of couples’ marriage proposals. In preparation for next year’s big 30-plus-one, Higbie and committee are busy preparing a big celebration to honor the history of Irving’s sculpture that will take place in 2015. Be on the lookout for a request for photographs soon.
“People, who often have a personal connection to the mustangs, are so generous with their compliments to the artistry of the sculpture,” adds Higbie. “I have the greatest job in the world and every day I silently thank Mr. Carpenter for this cultural contribution to the Irving community.”
In the East Tower of Williams Square Plaza, 5221 N. O’Connor Blvd., Suite 110, visitors can find the Mustangs of Las Colinas Museum. In the museum, guests can learn more about the story of the eight years of work African wildlife artist Robert Glen invested in creating the mustangs. Admission to the museum is free. General hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The 30th anniversary celebration for the sculpture has been postponed until fall 2015. Glen will return to Irving for those festivities.
For more information, visit mustangsoflascolinas.com.