About the Colony

Effort to restore Atascadero zoo’s bronze tiger can be credited to one woman

Susan Beatie stood like a proud mother welcoming her child.

On Thursday, her 1,700-pound bronze Bengal tiger was returned to its spot at the entrance of the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, where it was first placed 25 years ago.

Susan was the single force behind the creation of this piece of art. As a sculptor, Susan had a fondness for other pieces of public art in the community and also championed the restoration of the Italian statue of the “Wrestling Bacchantes” in the Sunken Gardens.

I never cease to be amazed at the influence one person can have in a community. When Susan created the bronze tiger, she invited more than 100 local schoolchildren to help work on roughing in the structure of the large cat. She wanted many people to feel a personal connection to this wonderful piece of artwork.

Over the past quarter century, time took its toll on the tiger. The weather dulled its finish, cracks were discovered here and there, and the steel base holding the work in place was rusting away.

So Susan began the fundraising effort to have the tiger refurbished by Genesis Bronze in Paso Robles — at a cost of $8,500.

The tiger was sand-blasted to remove years of residue. Its stripes were painted black with iron, and the statue was coated in a special varnish. And the eyes were polished to a high gloss that makes them appear as if they are watching you.

“It looks beautiful,” Susan said last week, as employees from Genesis lowered the tiger onto its rocky perch in an area that also includes the zoo’s flock of flamingos.

Susan worked thousands of hours in creating the tiger as a “community project.”

When it came to raising funds and stirring interest in having the carrara marble statue in the Sunken Gardens taken away to be repaired, Susan came up with a fun project.

She created life-sized “statues” of a number of local citizens using gauze and plaster of Paris. Those “live art” pieces were then auctioned off. For the most part, nobody who was the subject of the process liked how they looked.

“Am I really that short?” I asked myself as I looked at the finished process. Susan even wrapped an old camera of mine and a reporter’s notebook in the fabric and goo to go with the finished “statue.”

The tiger restoration project cost the city nothing. Donations are still needed, however. You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of the Zoo at 9305 Pismo Ave., Atascadero, CA 93422, or to Genesis Bronze, 3635 Dry Creek Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446.

The zoo will host a “Welcome Back” party from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.