Ahead of an expected decision on Monday, five artists who want the honor of making statues of civil rights leader Daisy Bates and music legend Johnny Cash to be on display at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday presented models of what they envision their works would look like.
Members of the Bates and Cash families had previously provided advice on what they wanted the statues to include, with general similarities between the proposals. In a series of presentations throughout the day, the five sculptors also explained to members of the Arkansas National Statuary Hall and Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission Steering Committee what inspired their work.
Each state is allowed to have two statues inside Statuary Hall. Legislation enacted by Governor Asa Hutchinson in 2019 called for the replacement of the current century-old statues, lawyer Uriah Rose and former Governor James P. Clarke, with Bates and Cash. Hutchinson has said he hopes the statues will be installed in the United States Capitol before the end of his last term in January 2023.
The finalists for the Bates statue are Jane DeDecker from Loveland, Colorado, J. Brett Grill from Grand Rapids, Michigan and Benjamin Victor from Boise, Idaho.
Victor said he had thought of his own experience in a multicultural high school when researching Bates, who was a writer and activist who mentored the Little Rock Nines when they desegregated Central High School in 1957.
“When I think of Daisy, her life, her life and her accomplishments, I can’t help but remember the longtime friends I had from school who grew up in an integrated school with every race, every color, every ethnicity, every religion in the schools in the city where I went. Well that wouldn’t be a reality without Daisy’s life and legacy, ”said Victor.
He is the only finalist for both sculptures, telling members it wouldn’t be a problem for him to complete both sculptures by the December 31 deadline this year, as he would erase everything from his schedule to complete both. if he was chosen.
Regarding Cash, Victor said he was inspired by the power of what a Cash showman was, while also overcoming life challenges like drug addiction.
“For anyone who has made mistakes in their life and wants to become something big, do something big and know their potential is not ruined just because of those mistakes. So this really spoke to me. of this room and I put a lot of heart into it, ”said Victor.
Kevin Kresse of Little Rock, who is the only Arkansan among the five artists, and Craig Campbell of Wichita, Kan are also in the running to make the statue of Cash.
Kresse said part of what motivated him in his design, which depicts a dark Cash carrying his Bible in one hand and with the other a guitar, was the horrific accident that killed Cash’s older brother , Jack to Dyess, Ark. when both were teenagers. Jack Cash was almost cut in half while working with a table saw.
“The tragic death of his hero and big brother Jack in that horrific accident at a sawmill and seeing him die and not just that his dad picks him up and then shows him the bloody clothes and tells him it should have been him at the how to overcome that, I have no idea, “said Kresse.
Kresse previously made a bronze bust of Arkansas native Levon Helm of The Band, which was unveiled in 2018 in Phillips County.
Craig Campbell from Wichita, Kan. touted his work as a chief sculptor on the Hobbit movies. He said his vision for Johnny Cash came from the fact that he was born and raised on a farm, and grew up with the music of Johnny Cash. He titled his piece “Johnny Cash: Power & Bondage” and sculpted it all using guitar photos and other guitar tools.
The statues will be on display to committee members and the Arkansas General Assembly until Friday, Governor Hutchinson is also expected to see them. Committee members are expected to take final votes on who will make each statue on Monday.
Cash’s daughter, Rosanne Cash, attended the 2019 bill signing ceremony. In an interview with KUAR News afterwards, she said she was thrilled to see her father honored with Bates.
“I think it’s appropriate that he’s here with Daisy Bates,” Rosanne Cash said. “I have immense admiration for this woman, her civil rights activism and her sense of justice, and for them, being in solidarity means a lot to the family. I can’t wait to stand in Washington and see this unfolded. “