Lawrence art group lobbying for Langston Hughes statue

A Lawrence group is seeking the city commission's support for a statue of Langston Hughes to be erected in downtown Lawrence.

The public art piece would add to the commemoration of the author and Lawrence resident's 100th birthday celebration next year.

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Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

A statue of Langston Hughes is being sought as public art to add to the coming commemoration of the author and Lawrence native's birthday celebration. The city commission will receive a letter Tuesday asking for support. James Patti, Lawrence, created a sculpture in 1976 on Hughes as a boy, which is included in a current exhibit of Hughes at Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the city commission will receive a letter from the Roundtable for the Arts and Culture asking for support. The group, consisting of residents who are interested in the arts, meets monthly.

Ann Evans, director of the Lawrence Arts Center, said the roundtable hopes the city will approve its request to make the Hughes sculpture the next Percent for Arts project. Since 1987, the city has set aside up to 2 percent of its budget for major capital improvements to be used for buying artworks.

"It's just an idea since it's (Hughes') 100th birthday," Evans said. "This seemed like a wonderful way to recognize him. This seemed like a good way to get the wheels in motion."

If the commission supports the request, Evans said the Lawrence Arts Commission would start the process by inviting artists who live in or have a connection to the Lawrence area to submit proposals for the sculpture. She said the group would like the piece to be a realistic sculpture relating to the period Hughes lived in Lawrence.

Hughes was born Feb. 1, 1902, in Joplin, Mo. He spent most of his childhood years, from 1903 to 1915, living in Lawrence with his grandmother, Mary Langston.

Hughes, the author of such poems as "Dream Deferred" and "Youth," died in 1967.

A selection committee would be formed to select the artist and sculpture. Its selection would be approved by the arts commission and the city commission.

The Percent for Arts fund has been used to financed sculpture work, stained glass and benches at the East Lawrence Recreation Center, and Shellie Bender's "Mobility" sculpture outside the Lawrence Visitor Information Center in North Lawrence.

Evans said the roundtable group hopes the city will announce the artist selected for the project during Hughes' birthday celebration in February 2002. She said the group has suggested a location for the sculpture � the corner of Ninth and Vermont streets in front of the Carnegie Building, the current home of the Lawrence Arts Center, where Hughes spent many hours reading as a child.

The commission meeting starts at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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