The Retriever Project: Designing a New UMBC Tradition

Travis Bell ’14, psychology, is in Chile this semester as a participant in UMBC’s Study Abroad program.

Sometimes ideas come from think tanks or committees. The Retriever Project idea started with two students sitting in a course called Civic Agency and Social Entrepreneurship (AMST/POLI/SOCY 205), taught by David Hoffman and Delana Gregg. We wanted to build community spirit at UMBC. Before long, we had two other students in the class working with us. Through our discussions, the idea evolved: The project became about having a place for the UMBC community to express what it means to be a UMBC Retriever. We envisioned putting up wall murals in the Breezeway.  But two weeks later, we noticed advertising space actually being created in the Breezeway, eliminating that option.

The idea evolved again: We thought about putting up large wall murals along the main academic row.  But through our research we discovered that there would be serious logistical challenges, and anyway the result probably would not produce the effect we had in mind. So at last we arrived at the idea of paintable statues that could be designed by members of the UMBC community. The statues would depict Retrievers, an established symbol of UMBC. Our group members had seen similar projects done at other colleges and in cities, but usually the painted designs were done by outside artists (as they were in the case of Baltimore’s crab statues and the University of Maryland’s Terrapin statues). We wanted these statues to be authentically UMBC Retrievers, so we decided to hold a campus contest to generate the designs.

The second part of the project idea is to eventually move the statues off-campus to locations that are connected to UMBC, to enhance UMBC’s link to the surrounding communities through art.

With any project idea, it is simply an idea until someone gains support for the project and can put it into action. We knew this project would require significant funding for statues, bases, paints, and advertising to inform the entire UMBC community. First, we went through the application and campaigning process for SGA’s Prove It! campus change competition last spring. We viewed the competition and the campaign as a chance to win not only the prize money (a $10,000 grant and $1,000 cash prize), but also support for the project from UMBC students, administration, staff and alumni.

At first, we met with individual staff members we knew from POLI 205 or had personal connections useful to the project. Staff we met with made it clear that if this project was going to succeeded, we needed it to be embraced as a UMBC tradition.  Every tradition starts with a first instance, but we realized if we wanted there to be a first instance that could become a tradition, we would need staff and student groups committed for longer than the two years each of us had left in our time as UMBC undergraduates.  So, we decided to make a committee of students and staff representing a number of different offices across campus to provide a structure to allow the project to continue. We had to plan first which offices should be involved and who within the offices would both benefit from the project and be most beneficial to the project.

Throughout our meetings, we were surprised at the level of support that UMBC staff gave us, not only agreeing to be part of the committee, but also helping us to further plan and advertise the project. Over the past year, we have been able to gain the support of many individuals and offices at UMBC. And we won the Prove It! competition, which provided the funding we needed to move the project forward.

We are currently carrying out the design contest for the painting of the statues, and this means that you (student, staff, or faculty member) can be an active part of this project by submitting a design.  We’ve created design templates.  You’ll have to answer this question in explaining your design: What does it mean to be a UMBC Retriever? The complete application packet is available as a web page or downloadable document. When you have completed your application, you can either email it to or hand it in hard copy to the SGA office (Commons 2B20) in the box labeled “Retriever Project – Finished Design Applications.” The deadline for submissions is November 21, 2012.

After the deadline, all of the designs will be considered and voted upon by The Retriever Project Advisory Committee, and the winners will be announced. This winter, the statues will be painted by UMBC art majors. The painted statues will be unveiled in March or April 2013.

If you have any questions, email me or Kelsey Krach ( Good luck, and thanks for helping us start a UMBC tradition!

Contact the author, Travis Bell, at



  1. Romy Jones says:

    Congratulations, Travis, on this wonderful project. I’ve always been jealous of those type of statues and am proud that we will soon have our own at UMBC. I’m very impressed at how well you kept the UMBC community and its talent in mind when designing the project – a true collaboration of gifted and innovative individuals that comprise our community!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: