Fran Volz photo The Journal
Fran Volz created the Bronze Eternal Flame at the Field of Honor in Love’s Park, Ill. A light is mounted inside the flame so it glows at night.

Motorists traveling through downtown Rockford in the past couple of weeks have had their curiosity piqued by an unknown snow sculptor who has been hard at work on a vacant lot at N. Church and John streets.

His first creation there is a magnificent mermaid, and that was followed by a fish with intricate details. Who is he? Rochelle artist Fran Volz, a sculptor who got his start in the snow as a child and eventually went on to become a renowned bronze sculptor.

Rockford Mayor Tom Macnamara is one of many people to take notice.

“I drive by the corner of Church and John streets every day, and have seen a lot of action on a vacant lot,” he said. “Early this morning I decided to stop by, introduce myself and bring some donuts! To my absolute delight, I had the opportunity to meet Fran Volz who is an amazing local sculptor. Fran recently purchased this vacant lot and is building a magnificent snow sculpture!

“This sculpture and interaction with Fran brought joy to me this Friday morning. Drive by and see the progress. I am sure it will bring a smile to your face. We live in a great community with amazing people.”

Volz began his sculpting career on a cold winter’s day in 1987 by building a snowman. Rather a snow Smurf. Passing cars honked their horns in approval, and Volz realized he created something special. By working in public he sensed what appealed to people, and soon gained an audience.

Fran’s been recognized for his creations receiving awards in state snow competitions. He’s also been featured in newspapers at least a dozen times yearly and visited by local TV and radio personalities interviewing him on their programs.

In 2004 Volz organized the Chicago Snow Competition. He brought it downtown to Navy Pier where teams of artists from around the world competed: Spain, China, Germany, Canada, Russia, to name a few.

While he enjoys working with snow, Volz’s real love is creating monumental statues in bronze. He likes the permanence and classical appearance of this traditional medium. His influences stem from a variety of sources: the style of Masters like Michelangelo, DaVinci, Rodin and Houdon; the whimsical subjects of Norman Rockwell; the dynamic poses of Marvel Comic book superheroes and the fluid, flowing lines of Disney and Vargas characters. Like his snow sculptures, Volz likes to create bronze works that touch people. For this reason, he concentrates on the human form (figurative art).

Instead of formal training Volz immersed himself in studying, observing and researching every aspect of the human form to create beautiful true to life statues. He did receive formal training in the bronzing process by working as an apprentice to a bronze sculptor in the Chicago area.

Rather than mass-producing his pieces, Volz creates one-of-a-kind monuments for cities to honor historical figures, portrait busts of loved ones for private commissions and will consider any other project.

Fran Volz was born the fifth of 10 children near Green Bay, Wis. Being a middle child with an unusual name, he strived to stand out in the crowd. He’d draw cartoons to amuse his siblings and entertain classmates. Volz was also creative using his hands, spending hours in his dad’s workshop building elaborate mazes for pet mice, an electromagnetic lifter, or fiberglassing a canoe.

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