We have selected sculptor William Wolfe's life-like rendering of Abraham Lincoln that depicts Mr. Lincoln clean-shaven as he appeared when he arrived in Kalamazoo in August of 1856. The medium will be bronze. See our report to the Kalamazoo City Commission.
The Kalamazoo City Commission has approved a site location in the north central part of the park (download and view schematic at bottom of Home Page).
The statue is to be delivered by August 1, 2023. Installation and dedication will be scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of Mr. Lincoln’s August 27, 1856 visit.
We reviewed the process used by the Kalamazoo community in selecting the artist for the Martin Luther King Jr. statue now located in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in the city’s Northside neighborhood. We have been careful to model best practices used in that successful community-wide effort.
Part of our community engagement included a county-wide penny drive conducted in cooperation with Kalamazoo county public school administrators and staff, which involved hundreds of students, teachers and parents.
A Request for Qualifications was sent out nationally in January 2022 with an open call to artists submitted to the Chicago Artists Coalition, and Art Opportunities. Reponses were due by March 4, 2022. Over a dozen submissions were received from across the country. The process was open, competitive, and deliberative.
Pursuant to the authority given the KLI by the city of Kalamazoo, the KLI created a four-member committee from among KLI board members who were assisted by a two-member Artistic Advisory Committee comprised of WMU art instructors Vincent Torano and Patrick Wilson. Kalamazoo Valley Museum Curator Emeritus Tom Dietz was recruited to serve as a consulting historian.
The statue committee met with Joseph A. Becherer, founding director and curator of the sculpture program at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids and now the director of the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Becherer provided valued advice and input throughout the selection process. Also, committee members independently toured relevant sculptures from around the country and sought local feedback on various artists’ qualifications. These contacts included communications with park officials at Gettysburg National Cemetery.
Other contacts included a meeting with Michael Evans of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council who managed the Sojourner Truth statue project in Battle Creek. He too offered valued counsel and advice. Lincoln statue expert Dave Wiegers was also consulted.
An initial selection of five semi-finalists was narrowed to three. References were thoroughly vetted by committee members, after which each artist came to Kalamazoo to present their design maquettes. Presentations were made before the KLI board and various attending members of the Kalamazoo community in early June of 2022.
Yes, every effort was made to consider local and statewide artists. The selection process was engaging, competitive and fair.
The statue is being paid for by private donations from people throughout Kalamazoo and across Michigan.
One of the stipulations placed on the initial approval by the Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was to establish an endowment fund for the ongoing cleaning and maintenance of the statue and for any possible repairs should they be needed. Building this fund is a work in progress. Statue maintenance includes an annual cleaning with soap and water and re-waxing approximately every three years.
Once the statue has been installed, the protocol is to have the Institute gift the statue to the city of Kalamazoo. The Institute would like to have a reverter clause in the transfer-of-ownership document that returns the statue to the Institute should the city ever remove the statue from the park.
Our Lincoln-legacy plans envision a biennial Kalamazoo Lincoln Symposium with visiting scholars and speakers, and art and essay contests for local youth. We are currently working on developing educational resources instructive of Lincoln's 1856 visit . We are committed to promoting leadership development using Lincoln's example of statesmanship.
Additional plans include collaborating with Michigan’s 37 other Lincoln-related sites such as the Henry Ford in Dearborn, and with Pure Michigan to advance Michigan’s Lincoln Remembrance Trail to a state-of-the-art mobile tour using the latest technology as portals for access—building on work begun by the Michigan Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee.
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