The Des Moines Register | Published November 4, 2013
Author: Barbara Rodriguez, Associated Press
An Artist is highlighting the work of more than a dozen community leaders in the Sioux City area by creating bronze sculptures of the individuals for a diversity park.
Mark Avery has spent countless hours in his studio meticulously sculpting busts of people he said have been champions of equality and justice, and have helped individuals marginalized in the community.
“They’re really what we refer to as everyday heroes,” he said. “People that really weren’t looking for any spotlight. They just did it because it was the right thing to do.”
The Celebrating Community Project will feature 13 busts of people who represent populations including African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Jewish Americans and American Indians. They also represent other groups, such as women, elderly, children, veterans and the homeless. Some of the leaders are alive, and others have died.
“When they came up with this idea, I thought, ‘Gosh, these are the areas… that impact all of us,” said Flora Lee, president of Sioux City NAACP, which is helping promote the park and raise money for it. “To look at some of those people that have been identified as pioneers in our community… even though they’re separate categories, they’re interlocked or interlaced with one another.”
Avery, a resident of nearby McCook Lake in South Dakota, has five busts completed so far. Once they’re all finished, they will be placed together in a park in the downtown area. A granite base for each bust will have a plaque describing the honoree’s work. A steal arc that will be 23 feet tall and 50 feet wide is inspired by a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. All the pieces will be lit by LED lighting.
Committees of the local leaders have helped pick the individuals, though two remain to be selected, Avery said. There will also be up to six honorable mentions for each category. They will be recognized in biographies on an official website and a kiosk inside the Martin Luther King Jr. transportation center near the park.
“We recognize with each and every committee that there’s more than even just the six honorable mentions of people that have been in the trenches, helping and advocating for the marginalized,” said Lee Kurtz, a member of the project’s steering committee. “It’s just a way for us to broaden the scope and recognize more people.”
Celebrating Community Foundation, the non-profit group behind the project, needs $540,000 to complete the art and the park. Organizers have raised about $70,000 in grants so far, and they’re now turning to private fundraising.
Avery, who considers himself a social activist, said he hopes the park educates the community, especially the children, and engages visitors about fostering awareness and acceptance.
“It’s really about people’s goodness,” he said. “What we see in Sioux City are common every day people that really become heroines and heroes through their social service to others.”
Lee said foundation organizers want the park to be incorporated into the history curriculum of both public and private schools in the area. She hasn’t heard of a sculpture park quite like this.
“If we do this right, we could be a model for other communities,” Lee said.
As printed in the Des Moines Register. Please visit www.DesMoinesRegister.com for full article.