Artists changing look of Indian for downtown Batavia sculpture
By Linda Girardi For The Beacon-News February 19, 2013 12:42PM
Batavia may seek changes to the history sculpture being created for the downtown Wilson Street Bridge. After speaking with a tribe in Wisconsin, the Indian figure on the sculpture will have the mohawk and headress removed, and the figure will point to the east.
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:20AM
BATAVIA — Design changes will be made on the second in a series of sculptures that will grace the dowtown William J. Donovan Bridge.
“The submittals for the bridge sculptures can be very conceptual, and the process of actual creation can lead to changes — hopefully for the better of the piece,” City Administrator Bill McGrath told aldermen this week.
Artists Oscar Leon and Jessica LoPresti of Highwood were awarded the public art project last year for a design titled “A Look Back,” that represents a progression of history and incorporates historical elements related to Batavia, including Native Americans, the Fox River, limestone quarry and windmills.
The piece is being built out of bronze, limestone and glass. One of Leon’s recognizable works is the bronze statue of Chicago White Sox ballplayer Frank Thomas at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
McGrath said the original design had three windmills of different scale and an American Indian with a headdress and shaven head in the Mohawk style.
After the artists were awarded the project, they traveled to Wisconsin to meet with a representative of the Potawatomi Indians to discuss the clothing, appearance and other details to ensure the authenticity of the sculpture. They also spent time with local windmill historian Bob Popeck.
The trip resulted in the changes in the appearance of the Indian, McGrath said.
“One change which has not been evident is the fact the Indian will be installed looking to the east. This is an important element to the Potawatomi because they are considered ‘keepers of the fire.’ The artists were told the fire keeper always should be facing east,” McGrath said.
Accuracy in design
The artists contacted the city after seeing how the balance of the piece would work with the change of the Indian’s stance and suggested the piece feature one windmill rather than two or three.
“They have suggested that they build one kinetic windmill... and in keeping with the accuracy of the piece, that they create a fire to be watched over by the fire keeper and a bow and arrows on a small hill just to his right and rear,” McGrath said.
Another change is the Indian will have long hair and a cloak over his shoulders.
“The bridge sculptures are about how we view ourselves. It is a statement of what we value that will be passed down to future generations of Batavia,” Alderman Jim Volk said.
The reconstruction of the 1911 Donovan Bridge, also known as the Wilson Street Bridge, was completed in 2008 with four sculpture pedestals. The first sculpture, titled “Nature: Sounds of Harmony,” created by sculptor Kai Schulte of Sugar Grove, was installed in April 2009. The piece has cattails of the Fox River that dance and chime in the wind.
The city recently announced it has decided to issue a call for proposals for the third and fourth sculpture design competitions simultaneously to speed up the completion of the public art project which was a delayed a year due to the economy. The final two sculptures will carry the themes of science and art.