He will be remembered as the sculptor who created "Scary Lucy."
But David Poulin – still bruised by the national reaction to his Lucille Ball portrayal – has lost interest in bronze statues. So he has given away his tools of the trade.
Poulin has donated some $15,000 worth of his foundry equipment to the Buffalo Maritime Center, where it will be used to cast parts for boats and as part of its program to train teenagers in industrial arts.
The backlash over his Lucille Ball statue in the comedian's hometown of Celoron did not factor into his decision to give away the equipment, he said.
"I'm an older dad. I'm 56, and I have a 7-year-old," said Poulin, who teaches welding at Cattaraugus-Allegany Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Ellicottville. "Between putting a lot of energy into being a good teacher and wanting to spend time raising my little boy, spend time with my wife, as I've gotten older I see things a little differently. I was working 80 hours a week. Lucy or no Lucy, this is a good thing."
Newspapers and networks from across the country covered the saga of "Scary Lucy" in 2015 and then its widely praised replacement last summer. CNN said Poulin's first bronze figure elicited comparisons to a "Walking Dead" zombie. The New York Times called it the "statue laughed at across the country and around the world, but not in the way it was intended." CBC Radio said "it looked more like actor Steve Buscemi."
"I am so tired of the whole Lucy thing," Poulin said. "I create 120 public works. I've been doing this for 27 years. People like my work. I do one piece, admittedly it was not one of my best works, and it just keeps coming up and coming up and coming up.
"I'm just tired of it," Poulin said. "Enough is enough. Let's look at some serious issues. Let's look at our graduation rates and crime and poverty. We get a whole society that's all pumped up because of an image of Lucy. That's just insane. That's how I've looked at the whole thing. It's just craziness."
So he's done with "Scary Lucy." And he said he's done with sculpting bronzes. But he's scripted a nice ending to a story that swept the nation.
'An amazing place'
A friend of Poulin's who heard Roger Allen, executive director or the Maritime Center, give a talk at a Buffalo Rotary Club meeting put the men in touch with each other.
"I was just at a point in my career where I'm in semi-retirement," Poulin said. "I had the equipment. I heard about what they wanted to do with the boats, so I went up and visited them. It hit me that it's an amazing place."
"They told me how they can't find a lot of the brass and bronze parts for these old boats and a lot of them have to be custom-made or remade," he said. "Now, once they get the foundry up and running, they can cast those parts. I'm just very excited to see my stuff go to use."
The high school boys in Poulin's BOCES welding class built a special crane that will be used to move molten metal into the casting furnace that he donated.
Poulin also likes the Maritime Center's Hand to Hand program, which uses mentors to train young people in working with their hands.
The center already has a connection with the Maritime Charter School, and Allen talks of long-range plans to make industrial arts training more accessible to students in Buffalo public schools.
"We believe we know why so many kids are dropping out of school, and it's because they're not college-bound," Allen said. "They don't see themselves as academics or college students, so there's no reason for them to stay in school. Our Hand to Hand program came about in response to that. The mentors we have out there are these successful, responsible adults who say, 'This is our problem. We can't just blame the schools for this. This is our cultural problem. We have to do something about this.' "
The center's mission resonated with Poulin.
"I think a lot of kids, a lot of families, are realizing that there's nothing wrong with learning a trade," Poulin said. "These are very good careers and great opportunities for these kids. A lot of these kids have trouble sitting in a classroom for six or seven hours a day. They need the hands-on."
The center, located on Arthur Street in Riverside, also intends to make the equipment available to Buffalo-area artists who want to work in bronze.
"There's probably no foundry within 200 miles that services the art community. There are some industrial foundries, but they're very expensive to go to," said Henry Schmidt, the Maritime Center's first artist in residence.
"He's been very generous to us," said William Koch, another Maritime Center artist in residence, who created the Jimmy Griffin statue at Coca-Cola Field and the Darwin Martin Memorial in Forest Lawn.
"He's a wonderful artist, and it's such a shame about the Lucille Ball thing," Allen said of Poulin.
Poulin's other works include a Korean War memorial at Niagara University and an Underground Railroad piece in a Jamestown park.
But "Scary Lucy" drew the most attention – unwanted attention.
"He really got a bad rap on that one," said Schmidt, who retired from Fisher-Price after 25 years as the East Aurora toy company's director of product art and sculpture.
'Put it up for auction"
The craziness erupted several years after he sculpted Lucille Ball. The statue was done for Mark and Jetta Wilson of Celoron as part of a real estate transaction. The Wilsons donated it to the village, and the statue was unveiled in August 2009.
But not until six years later did dissatisfaction reach critical mass – with the help of a Facebook page called "We Love Lucy! Get rid of the statue!"
Another artist, Carolyn D. Palmer of Syracuse, sculpted a replacement statue, placed last August on the spot in Lucille Ball Memorial Park formerly occupied by Poulin's work. Poulin's statue remains in the park, but in a different location. Poulin didn't object to the change.
"I'm happy they have their Lucy," Poulin said.
He added that his statue "got so much press and PR, I suggested to the town that they auction it off and donate the proceeds to Buffalo (Women &) Children's Hospital or something," he said.
"At least somebody wins at the end," he added. "The town was miserable about it, but they still have it there. I said you could put it up for auction. It would probably make a chunk of money because some crazy Lucy fanatic with money somewhere in the world would probably buy it. Take the money and donate it to a good cause. I wasn't looking to make a dime, and I didn't make a dime off of that."
But thanks to Poulin, something positive has happened after all of the commotion over "Scary Lucy."
Teenagers will benefit from his generosity, using the equipment he donated to learn industrial arts. And artists will be able to create bronze sculptures like the 120 public works Poulin created – with the exception of one, hopefully.