A large sculpture will be permanently displayed at the University of Wyoming Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. Wyoming artist D. Michael Thomas created a sculpture that features a female rider breaking through a sandstone wall, which will be displayed in the Gateway Center’s north courtyard.

“Part of the story that Michael Thomas’s piece is representing is the important role women have played in our state,” says Ben Blalock, president of the UW Foundation. “It represents how Wyoming has been defined through the years through women who have broken through and who have made an important difference in our society, and certainly continue to play a key role in the advancement of the University of Wyoming.”

Wyoming, The Equality State, is known for strides in women’s rights. Wyoming is the first state to allow women to vote, to have a female elected to a state office, and to have a female governor.

These accomplishments and more will be permanently honored at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

Originally, there was only going to be one statue at the Gateway Center: a representation of the iconic Wyoming horse Steamboat. The artists, Chris Navarro and D. Michael Thomas, were given the freedom to create what they wanted, as long as it was approachable, photos could be taken with it from every angle, and the representation of the horse and rider was aggressive. A winner would then be chosen.

“Nothing defines the University of Wyoming like the bucking horse and rider,” Blalock says. “It is the iconic symbol for the state of Wyoming, and certainly it is a symbol that represents the University of Wyoming very well.”

Both artists took this assignment with enthusiasm. They came up with remarkably different sculptures, knowing that only one of them would be chosen to be displayed. T

“When they said that they wanted a possible bucking horse of Steamboat, I thought, man, they already have one,” Thomas says. “I just felt that the university needed something different than just a bucking horse, and I didn’t know if it would be chosen or not, but I thought it would be very different.”

The statue on display is a little different from Thomas’s original concept. The idea at first was for a cowboy and his horse busting through a sandstone wall. After both sculptures were chosen, he was asked to make the rider a woman, which he agreed to do.

“I got to messing around with it, and I took the man off and I started sculpting a young woman, and I really enjoyed it,” Thomas says. “I thought, this is more fun than having a man on there.”

He adds, “Then, of course, I had to make her outride the guy, so she’s actually sitting on this horse pretty well and she’s got a grin on her face, where I had a grimace on the guy’s face. She’s just thinking, ‘This is a piece of cake, boys.’”

The piece, tentatively titled “Breaking Through,” will stand almost 16 feet tall and be almost 8 feet wide. The sandstone wall will be more than 20 feet tall and 17 feet wide. The sculpture will be located on the north side of the building in War Memorial Plaza.