Two Lincoln sculptures in the works

Presidential library, New Salem planned locations for artwork

By DOUG POKORSKI
STAFF WRITER

As if the image of Abraham Lincoln didn't already appear pretty much everywhere in central Illinois, the Springfield area is set to get two new major Lincoln sculptures within the next couple of years.

Fund raising is well under way for a life-size statue of Lincoln as a surveyor, to be placed at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site. And a wall-mounted, bas-relief piece featuring Lincoln and one of his sons has been commissioned for an outside wall at the library part of the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Plans call for the Lincoln surveyor statue to be unveiled at New Salem in the early fall of 2003, according to Bob Church, executive director of the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association, which is sponsoring the project.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," Church said of the project. "The fall of 2003 coincides with the 75th anniversary of the (IPLSA) charter."

Lincoln worked as a surveyor during the years he lived in New Salem, before he decided to take up the practice of law, and at one time was the deputy surveyor for Sangamon County. It's a period of his life that often is overlooked, and Church said the statue is a way to draw greater attention to it.

The statue will depict a 25-year-old, 6-foot 4-inch Lincoln dressed in work clothes and conducting a land survey. The statue is based on a pen-and-ink drawing by the late Lloyd Ostendorf, a noted Lincoln artist.

Ostendorf's drawing has been adapted into the design for a statue by Decatur sculptor John McClarey, who has done numerous Lincoln statues.

"I've done so many, I can do them in my sleep," McClarey once said of his Lincoln IMAGES.

Church and the IPLSA plan to raise $130,000 to have the life-size version cast. That price includes the cost of a second, identical sculpture, which will be donated to the Michigan Museum of Surveying in Lansing, Church said.

Fund-raising began in late February, he said, and several pledges already have been made. Church said he hopes to have financial support from surveyors and surveyors' organizations from all 50 states before the project is completed.

Individuals or organizations that donate $3,000 or more will receive a 12-inch bronze facsimile of the Lincoln Surveyor statue, a signed and numbered copy of the Ostendorf drawing and a copy of the newly reissued book "A. Lincoln with Compass and Chain," by Adin Baber. They also will have their names inscribed on the base of the statue.

The finished statue will be placed outside the New Salem visitors' center on the east side of the entrance. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which operates New Salem, will maintain the statue once it is in place, according to agency spokesman Dave Blanchette.

Donations to the project can be sent to the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association, 203 S. Walnut St., Rochester, IL 62563.

The second new Lincoln sculpture on the drawing board is a 71/2-foot-high, bas-relief image that will be mounted on the exterior of the new Lincoln Presidential Library.

Oak Brook sculptor Rebecca Childers Caleel has been commissioned by the state Capital Development Board, which is overseeing work on the library/museum project, to do the piece.

Caleel said the work will feature a larger-than-life image of Lincoln. Because a final design for the piece has not been accepted, details of the work still are vague, but Caleel said she hopes it will picture Lincoln and one of his three sons.

Caleel is a widely known sculptor whose works encompass a wide range of subjects. She recently designed an 11-foot-tall statue of the Lincoln-Douglas debate that was held in Ottawa in 1858 on commission from the city of Ottawa. That project is being cast.

Caleel declined to say how much she will be paid for the piece in Springfield, and a final contract has not yet been signed.

She said no timetable has been set for the project, either, but she expects it to be completed within a year or two.

CDB spokeswoman Mia Jazo Harris said the sculpture for the $115 million library will be paid for out of a routine funding mechanism for state construction projects. Under state law, one-half percent of the budget for each public building project is set aside to purchase artwork for the building.

Doug Pokorski can be reached at 788-1539 or doug.pokorski@sj-r.com.

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Copyright 2002, The State Journal-Register