Each year's Cooper River Bridge Run poster design is truly a ubiquitous piece of art in Charleston. The tens of thousands of people who register for the road race all receive T-shirts bearing the image, and many wear it as a badge of honor on weekends all year long. For the 35th Bridge Run, being held in 2012, race organizers announced Wednesday night that they will be changing things up with the first ever three-dimensional design.
Greg Rawls, a Charleston artist, beat 66 other entrants in the panel-judged contest with a kiln-formed glass panel depicting a silhouette of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in front of a fiery rising sun. The sun's rays, as well as the bridge itself and the river below, are made of 1/2-inch-thick strips of glass that Rawls arranged on a glass plate and heated to 1,450 degrees for an entire day.
Rawls, who retired this year from a career as an industrial hygienist at MeadWestvaco and Alcoa to pursue art full-time, says that while blown-glass artists have a lot of control over form, kiln-formed glass artists can do a lot more with texture. The end result of his labor is a matte-finish rectangle of ridged glass that casts subtle shadows and plays with ambient light as you approach it. For the purpose of T-shirts and posters, he photographed the piece and superimposed information about the race on top of the image.
He received $1,000 for his winning entry. Previously, he entered the 2010 and 2011 Bridge Run design contests and won the 2006 poster design contest for the Piccolo Spoleto Petite Performance Pavilion.
Mace Brown, an insurance broker and race sponsor from Principal Financial Group who oversaw the 25-member design selection panel, says Rawls' design was "head and shoulders" above an impressive pool of entries for 2012.
"It was the color of it," Brown says. "It just jumped out at you from across the room." He says Rawls' piece is his favorite since he began sponsoring the race in 1994. Second place, in his mind, goes to the 1997 design, which reimagined the runners as a herd of wild animals stampeding across the Silas Pearman Bridge.
Bi-Lo and Boeing have signed on as the main sponsors for the race, giving them top billing on the backs of the T-shirts, and the event has also added three new charity organizations to its list of donation recipients: Water Missions International, the Semper Fi Fund, and the American Diabetes Association.