The namesake statue that resides in Collegedale's newly opened Little Debbie Park isn't the only figurative sculpture artist Alex Paul Loza has created, but it may be the only one with social-media buzz. That's thanks in part to the fanciful assortment of prefabricated sculptures of Christmas Tree Cakes, Oatmeal Creme Pies and other oversized snacks drawing visitors to the park for photo-ops.
Loza, a native of Lima, Peru, and a Chattanooga resident since August 2010, was commissioned by McKee Foods Corp. in 2021 to make the park's signature bronze sculpture depicting Debbie McKee, granddaughter of the company's founders. Her face, framed by a straw hat, has graced tens of millions of boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes since 1960.
At 4 p.m. Friday, Loza, 45, will lead a community Q&A about the project at Collegedale Commons. During the interactive session, he will share the inspiration, challenges and techniques that brought the sculpture to life. As a bonus, McKee Foods will provide free Swiss Rolls for all in attendance.
In advance of the Q&A, we reached out to Loza with some questions of our own. Here are excerpts of his answers, which came by email:
— The journey from Lima to Chattanooga:
"My artistic journey has taken me on an incredible path filled with various places and experiences," he said, starting with the move from Peru to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, with his mother and younger brother in 1989.
"It was there that I completed all four years of high school before heading to Michigan for art training," he said. "After three transformative years, I set my sights on Chicago in 1999, where I pursued my Bachelor of Fine Arts and kick-started my artistic career.
"Finally, in August 2010, my wife (Jocelyn) and then-5-month-old daughter and I moved to Chattanooga, where we found a new chapter to explore. Each step of this journey has shaped me as an artist, igniting a passion that continues to inspire me every day."
The Lozas have since had a second daughter, who's 8. Their older daughter is 13.
— On creating a detailed 3D sculpture from a photograph:
Loza said the sculpture's pose draws inspiration from a monochrome photograph of 7-year-old Debbie assisting her grandparents in sampling Swiss Rolls during the inauguration of the Village Market in Collegedale. It is life-size for her age at the time.
"To create a 3D representation of the sculpture, I utilized the Little Debbie logo as a guide to capture the frontal perspective of her face and her expression," he said. "Additionally, my mother crafted a sailor blouse and skirt based on the photograph for my 7-year-old daughter to wear, having her be the model for the sculpture."
If you go
— What: Q&A With Alex Paul Loza: Behind the Artistry — The Making of the Little Debbie Sculpture
— When: 4 p.m. Friday
— Where: Chestnut Hall at Collegedale Commons, 4750 Swinyar Drive
— Admission: Free
— Online: alexpaulloza.com
— On meeting the real Little Debbie, all grown up:
Debra McKee-Fowler, 67, is an executive vice president at McKee Foods and serves on the board of directors, according to a company profile.
Loza said they met when she visited his studio to see the completed clay model before he moved on to the mold-making phase.
— How the Q&A contributes to his commitment to community-based art:
"Community-based art holds great significance to me because it bridges the gap between artistic expression and the shared experiences of a community," he said. "By involving the local community in the artistic process, whether through workshops, collaborative projects or public installations, art becomes more relatable, impactful and accessible."
— His favorite Little Debbie snack:
"My favorite Little Debbie snack is the Nutty Buddy, with Swiss Rolls coming in second," Loza said.