Spiegel Grove event features ‘man who put Bigfoot on the moon’

Press Staff Writer

        Fremont native Dan Chudzinski grew up next to Spiegel Grove and has countless memories of time spent at the 25-acre wooded site – from taking family pictures, to cross country practices to walking his dog.
        His parents still live in the neighborhood and walk their dog at the Grove, the estate of President Rutherford and First Lady Lucy Hayes, which became an arboretum three years ago.
        “Spiegel Grove holds many fond memories for my family,” Chudzinski said. “As a child, I used to stare out my bedroom window at the Civil War reenactors around their bonfires, imagining that I was looking back in time. Above all, it is a visual reminder that people from Fremont, Ohio, can shape history and change the world.”
        That’s why Chudzinski, an artist who has consulted on movies and been commissioned to create work for exhibits at various museums, wanted to use his art to give back to Spiegel Grove.
        During a fundraiser on Thursday, May 18, Chudzinski will discuss how he created a lifelike bust of Bigfoot, titled “Evasive Species,” which will be displayed at the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums. The event is from 5:30-7 p.m. and includes refreshments.
        Tickets are $22 for non-members and $18 for Hayes Presidential members. Funds raised will support the purchase and upkeep of trees at Spiegel Grove. Tickets are available at
        During the event, a cast Chudzinski created of his interpretation of Bigfoot’s footprint will be raffled, with money raised also supporting Spiegel Grove trees.
        The Bigfoot sculpture will be on display in the museum as a special exhibit, “Bigfoot Encounter,” from Friday, May 12, through Sunday, June 25.
        During regular hours, access to see the likeness of this creature from Ohio and U.S. folklore is included with regular admission, and Hayes Presidential members are admitted for free.
        After the exhibit at Hayes Presidential ends, the sculpture will be displayed far beyond the Hayes Museum. The Lunar Codex contemporary art archive chose it to be photographed and etched into metal microfilm and put into a time capsule that will be sent to the south pole of the moon.
        “I dream big. That being said, I never anticipated that I would one day come to be known as ‘The man who put Bigfoot on the moon,’” he said. “When one of my friends called from Paris to mention that a local magazine ran the story, I realized the full gravity of Bigfoot’s appeal. It’s a surreal thought to consider that I will never be able to look at the moon in the same way. I have left my mark there and it will outlast me.”
        The Lunar Codex was started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to bring hope during a dark time and to share some of humanity with the moon for potential future travelers to find.
        To create the hairy, snarling creature with beastly eyes and yellowed teeth, Chudzinski sculpted the likeness in 400 pounds of clay and then made a silicone cast. After painting the skin tones, he spent the next three weeks punching each hair by hand.
        The sculpture was first displayed at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, as part of the “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration” exhibition. Chudzinski was the only living sculptor represented in the galleries, which featured iconic fantasy artists dating back to the Italian Renaissance.
        “When the Norman Rockwell Museum first invited me to be a part of the exhibition, I realized that many of my artistic heroes, both living and deceased, were going to have their work in the show,” said Chudzinski, who is also curator of the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books at the University of Findlay. “Knowing that I would be meeting some of them for the first time at the opening, I wanted to make a big impression. I suggested a hyper-realistic, full figure Bigfoot. They said ‘yes’ before I could finish my proposal. The full figure was eventually scaled down to a bust, in order to fit into the museum.” 
        Chudzinski worked with Hayes Presidential on its special exhibit “Ohio: An Unnatural History” in 2020. The exhibit examined Ohio folklore, legends and creature stories, including bigfoot, sometimes called Grassman in Ohio.
        He created digital art of the legends that was used to make life-sized cutouts and loaned Hayes Presidential some of his sculptures of mythical creatures.
        Chudzinski has a diverse background in art techniques. He has worked as a zoo taxidermist, apprenticed under master marble carvers in the mountains of Northern Italy, made functional artillery pieces for film and television and created totem poles with Tlingit master carvers in Alaska.
        He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Miami University. He also earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in three-dimensional studies from Bowling Green State University.
        Since 2015, he has been curator of the Mazza Museum, which houses the world’s first and largest collection of original illustrations from picture books. The museum serves as host to the annual “Enchanted Brush Exhibition,” a free event that Chudzinski founded and curates to showcase the works of his friends in the imaginative realism genre.
        Chudzinski’s artistic adventures can be followed on Instagram at @danchudzinskistudio.
        Hayes Presidential is located at the corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues in Fremont. For information, call 419-332-2081, visit, like Hayes Presidential on Facebook and follow on Twitter and Instagram at @rbhayespres.


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