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Happy Valley’s Own Picasso: The Artist Behind Willard’s Snow Nittany Lion

Last week’s snowstorm brought freezing temperatures, class cancellations, and a welcome break from Sylly Week to State College. As Happy Valley turned into a winter wonderland and students sought refuge in their apartments and dorms, not every student spent their snow weekends indoors.

Meet Eva Koczur, a first-year mechanical engineering major and Schreyer Honors student. She spent the better part of her extra-long snow weekend making the Nittany Lion out of a snow pile in front of the Willard Building.

What started as an assignment for her engineering design class just to find something to do while class was canceled gathered attention from organizations all across campus.

“Our assignment was pretty open-ended. It was just [to] create some sort of sculpture and take into account some things like originality, creativity, something that would last long, and take the location into account,” Koczur said.

“I was really procrastinating it. I wasn’t having any ideas of what I was going to make or do. I knew I didn’t want to just do a regular snowman,” she continued.

Growing up in a household in Ohio where Penn Staters are few and far between, Koczur said her family of proud Penn State alumni and their sense of school spirit helped her settle on the Nittany Lion for her big project.

“In the end, I figured the Nittany Lion was something everyone…could appreciate. That’s what I was struggling with, coming up with something that everyone would be excited to see,” Koczur said.

The location of her sculpture by Willard also happened naturally as Koczur and her friends ended up walking past the Willard Building during one of their snow days and stumbled upon what would become the site of the project.

“I ended up going sledding with some friends… We ended up walking to the golf course to go sled there,” Koczur said.

“On the way back, we passed Willard and there was this ginormous snow pile,” she said. “I was like, ‘I think I can make the Nittany Lion head out of this.'”

The actual assignment for her class, titled “If Picasso Was an Engineer,” focused on ways students could merge design with engineering concepts.

“This wasn’t supposed to be an assignment. It was, honestly, just because class was canceled for the snow. [The professor] wanted to come up with something that wanted to be a blend of engineering and art,” Koczur said. “It’s the art of design, in a sense. It kinda integrates art, creativity, and design, stuff like that into engineering.”

Other snowy sculptures her classmates completed included Squidward’s house from SpongeBob, turtles, and even a snake.

“I did go a little overboard after seeing after seeing our presentation of other [projects],” she said.

For creating the Nittany Lion out of the pile of snow, Koczur swiped a butter knife from the dining hall to help carve out the more detailed pieces. Using a dining tray as a shovel of sorts, Koczur sculpted the pile of snow down into a rough shape of the Nittany Lion.

“I spent about three hours on the Nittany Lion head. It was definitely a commitment. I did it at night in the dark — I forgot it gets dark at like 5:30 now,” Koczur said.

“Luckily I was pretty bundled up. I was in my ski attire,” she continued.

With an artist’s tools in hand — a dining hall tray and a butterknife — Koczur made it her mission to pull the creative vision out of snow.

“I tried to convince some friends to come out with me. I think the real feel was below zero and it was dark. They were like, ‘Yeah, you have fun with that. We’ll come see it when it’s done.'”

While class cancellations provided a break from in-classroom learning, Koczur said how, although she was out of the classroom for the day, creating the sculpture wasn’t without its own problems to solve.

“It definitely wasn’t just drawing on a piece of paper… I had to come up with solutions to the issues that I had. The snow not compacting together, stuff like that,” Koczur explained.

She said the snow was so dry that getting highly detailed bits to stay compacted together, like the lion’s ears, required extra attention and coercion with the butterknife.

As for now, Koczur isn’t quite sure what the future holds for another project like Willard’s Nittany Lion sculpture. She hinted at the potential for something Penn State football-themed on the horizon, but time will tell as to what Penn State’s resident snow sculptor will create next.

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About the Author

Luke Pieczynski

Luke is a sophomore accounting major hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, and is one of Onward State's social media editors. He can often be found in the Starbucks line waiting for a nitro cold brew, or listening to one of Dua Lipa's latest releases. He's a fiercely loyal Sheetz Freak and will not settle for another Pennsylvania gas station. Please send your best political thriller to him on Twitter @lukepie11 or to his email [email protected].

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