Statuary Hall’s Overhaul

Posted May 30, 2003 at 5:48pm

More than 130 years after the collection received its first sculpture, Statuary Hall could soon reach full capacity.

Two of the three states that have yet to fill the second of their allotted spaces, North Dakota and New Mexico, plan to do so by the end of the year. The third, Nevada, is hopeful its statue will be unveiled by October 2004.

But even before those artworks saluting famous state residents arrive, another new face will take up residence in the halls of the Capitol: Kansas officials plan to unveil an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Wednesday, replacing the marble sculpture of former Kansas Gov. George W. Glick (D) that has been on display since 1914.

The new Kansas addition, which depicts Eisenhower addressing troops before the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion, marks the first time a statue has been removed from the collection since Congress passed legislation in 2000 allowing states to make exchanges.

“It has set a precedent,” said Dennis Medina, museum curator for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kan., noting that the exchange provides a more easily identifiable figure for Kansas residents and others visiting the Capitol. “A lot of people don’t know who some of these figures are because they’re so old.”

That sentiment is echoed by other groups seeking to add more recognizable personas to the collection.

Alabama state Rep. Mike Hubbard (R) is taking a lead role in the effort to swap out a 1908 statue depicting former Rep. Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry (D) for one of Helen Keller, who was born in Tuscumbia, a rural town in Northwest Alabama.

The idea for the swap came from then-Rep. and now-Gov. Bob Riley (R), Hubbard said, because so many of his constituents couldn’t identify Curry when touring the Capitol.

“The main reason [Curry] was in Statuary Hall was that his family had enough money to have the statue made,” Hubbard said. “History is always changing, and as it changes we need to stay current with it.”

Several organizations will assist with the project — including the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind and the Alabama Arts Council — which will need to raise $500,000, Hubbard said.

There are no definite plans for where the Curry statue may land. “We’ve had all kind of people say they’re interested in it,” Hubbard said, noting both Samford University and the University of Richmond as potential destinations.

Kansas also plans to bid farewell to its other donation to the Capitol, a statue of former Sen. John James Ingalls (R).

Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) is heading a drive to replace the former Senator with an image of aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to fly around the world in 1937.

But Barbara Wolanin, curator in the Architect of the Capitol’s office, isn’t worried about a mass exodus from the collection.

“Some of the states have people representing them that are so important historically or well-known that they probably would not want to change,” she said.

‘A Real Showstopper’

Organizers of the efforts in Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota have also selected figures they think will be readily recognizable by state residents, with each of the states selecting American Indians who played significant roles in the states’ histories.

North Dakota, which will likely be the next state to add its work to Statuary Hall, has elected to donate a statue of Sakakawea, who served as a guide for the 1803-06 expedition of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.

The artwork is actually a replica of a 12-foot-tall statue created by Leonard Crunelle and dedicated at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., in 1910.

“In stark contrast to the frozen visages of white men in suits or military uniforms scattered all across the Capitol, this statue is a real showstopper,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) who sparked plans to create a replica sculpture.

The bronze artwork depicts Sakakawea, also commonly known as Sacajawea, with her son, Jean Baptiste, strapped to her back. The original sculpture faces west, to signify Sakakawea’s work in exploring the West.

“She is indeed a historical figure and a legendary figure for her contribution to opening up the Western United States,” Pomeroy said.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota, along with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Dakota, helped to raise more than $200,000 to pay for the statue, which was cast by a Tempe, Ariz., foundry. The artwork is expected to arrive in Bismarck for the summer before being moved to Washington.

State Historical Society of North Dakota Communications Director Rick Collin said the state hopes to be able to unveil the statue Oct. 16, to mark the anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s arrival in what would become North Dakota.

The Sakakawea sculpture is a notable addition because it will become the first minority woman depicted in the collection. Of the 97 statues now in the collection, only six are women.

That change, Collin said, shows “a new appreciation for the role of women in our national history.”

“For the longest time it seemed like history was written for and about the role of mostly men in our nation,” he added. “This emphasis on women like Sakakawea going into Statuary Hall … is a good example of how we’re broadening our horizons.”

Additionally, Sakakawea will hold the rights to another first in the collection: It will be the only statue to depict two people.

“We cannot mention [Jean Baptiste] in the plaque, that was the compromise we reached with the Architect,” Collins aid.

The Architect has agreed to let the state place the statue in the Statuary Hall spot now held by former North Dakota Gov. John Burke, Pomeroy said. Because space in the hall is limited, only 38 statues are actually located there, while the rest are placed throughout the Capitol.

Native Crusaders

New Mexico is moving ahead with plans to unveil a statue of Popé, the San Juan Pueblo Indian strategist and warrior credited with leading the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Although the New Mexico Statuary Hall Foundation still has close to $150,000 left to raise of its $230,000 goal, officials are hopeful they will be able to present the statue in November.

In describing the selection of Popé, Herman Agoyo, the foundation’s president, compares the 1680 revolt to the American Revolution.

“As a result of his leadership, we still live on our original land base, we still speak our language, we still carry on our traditional pueblo ways,” Agoyo said. “Through his leadership, it was the only time that a foreign power was expelled from aboriginal homeland.”

One of the fundraising methods employed by the foundation is to sell small replicas of the statue being sculpted by artist Cliff Fragua.

In the Silver State, the Nevada Women’s History Project is behind a push to honor Sarah Winnemucca, who founded the state’s first school for American Indians and later traveled the country as a champion of the rights of indigenous peoples.

“She actually worked between the Indian agents and Washington, D.C., trying to make their conditions better. She was really an early human rights activist,” said Sara Jones, administrator of the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs’ State Library and Archives.

Organizers, who began fundraising in March, hope to kick off the search for an artist this week.

“We’ve had sculptors from all over the country” contact us about the project, said Carrie Townley Porter, NWHP’s state president.

Although the women’s history project had initially hoped to receive $100,000 in state funds, Porter said, the group dropped the request in order to get approval for the project.

Instead, the group has hosted several dinners and “Pink Teas,” raising $61,000 so far.

Ideally, the group would like to deliver the statue to the Capitol on Oct. 31, 2004, to mark the 140th anniversary of Nevada’s statehood.

Heavy Lifting

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the Architect of the Capitol is preparing to exchange the larger-than-life-size statues for this week’s ceremony.

Because of rules governing the number of statues each state may have in the Capitol, the Glick and Eisenhower works cannot be in the building at the same time, Wolanin said.

The Architect’s office planned to exchange the works on Saturday, the day the Eisenhower statue was scheduled to arrive at the Capitol.

Because of construction on the East Front for the Capitol Visitor Center, the statues were to be moved through the Capitol’s South entrance, close to the Glick statue.

“Normally a new statue, particularly the bronze, could be carried up the center steps and right into the Rotunda,” Wolanin said.

But the older statue, carved from marble, will likely be moved with rigging, Wolanin said, due to its hefty weight: The statue alone weighs in at 3,900 pounds, but its pedestal adds another 7,400 pounds.

By comparison, the Eisenhower statue, which is hollow, clocks in at a mere 600 pounds, along with its 350 pound base.

After its invitation-only unveiling at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Eisenhower statue will remain in the Rotunda for up to six months. The Architect has not selected a permanent space for the sculpture yet.

“Right now, we’re pretty full, so it’s kind of a juggling when these new ones comes in,” Wolanin said.