Why Is the Daniel Foundation Paying for Chinese Terra Cotta Warrior Statues?

What do Alabama and China have in common? Not a whole lot, honestly, but one locally focused foundation is changing that by bringing a bit of arts and culture to a public state university.

The Daniel Foundation typically funds educational, health, humanitarian, and cultural activities in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. But it recently made headlines for funding 200 life-sized replicas of Chinese terra cotta warrior statues that are modeled after the ones in Shaanxi, China. They’re obviously the main attraction, but there’s more to Daniel’s $500,000 commitment that just statues.

The Daniel Foundation has committed to helping Troy University, located in Troy, Alabama, construct a new park that will be an arts and culture centerpiece for the whole community. Troy University will use the funds to expand its existing park with a botanical showplace, lots of green space, and walking trails. The highly anticipated statues are reminiscent of ancient sculptures that depict China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s army and were uncovered in an excavation in China in 1974.

The reason that the replicas are coming to Troy is that the university’s chancellor, Jack Hawkins Jr., saw the original Chinese statues, liked them, and wanted warriors just like them on campus. When complete, this will be the largest permanent exhibit of terra cotta warrior statues in the U.S.

Vicki Pritchett, Johnson Center for the Art’s executive director who led a group of locals to China in May, explained:

The Terra Cotta Warriors will be a game changer for Troy University and Troy. This addition to Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park will generate interest in the Terra Cotta Warriors and their history that dates back nearly 3,000 years. This park will become a tourist attraction and will be a cultural learning opportunity for people of all ages. And, to think, that people will have the opportunity to see 200 replicas of these warriors right here at Troy University. That is a tribute to the university and to Chancellor Jack Hawkins and First Lady Janice Hawkins for their vision for the park.

So how did the Daniel Foundation get wrapped up in this big statue obsession?

Well, this funder is into the local arts community in a big way, and this seems to be just what the local community was craving. Based in Birmingham, this foundation often supports arts and culture groups with capital needs and prefers to fund organizations it’s already worked with. Projects that preserve green space, increase access to nature, and support historic preservation are often considered for grants. It also prioritizes operational support for arts groups with organizational sustainability strategies.

But this is an interesting twist on arts funding for the Daniel Foundation, with a grant that theoretically bridges the gap between East and West. Communities like Troy, Alabama are becoming more open to cultural growth, and with the help of funders like the Daniel Foundation, they have a good chance of overcoming old stereotypes in the American South. Chinese sculptor Dr. Hu Bao Zhu will donate 100 of the warrior statues and 10 other statues for the park, including a peace dove and a Hindu cultural icon of the Nandi Bull.

“Our galleries are just going to be the most exciting things,” said Janice Hawkins, First Lady of Troy University. “We’re going to have a permanent gallery, where we have already received some major collections that we’ll have on display, and then we’ll have a student gallery, where our students’ works will be, and I hope we’ll have some travelling shows eventually.”

To learn more about this funder, check out IP’s full profile about Daniel Foundation Grants.