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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Willa Cather Statue Headed for National Statuary Hall

Willa Cather Statue Headed for National Statuary Hall

Thursday, March 28, 2019

UPDATE: Littleton Alston will be featured in A Sculpted Life on Monday, February 3, 2020 at 9 p.m. CT on NET, Nebraska's PBS and NPR stations. This fascinating and moving glimpse into the life and art of the first African-American to have a sculpture at the U.S. Capitol is not to be missed. [It will also be available on-line after the airing.]

It is our great pleasure to share that Willa Cather will be one of two Nebraskans to represent the state in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This not only signifies Cather’s importance to Nebraska but her national literary stature. As a result of the passage of LB 807 in 2018, statues of Willa Cather and Ponca Chief Standing Bear will be installed in National Statuary Hall, replacing Nebraska’s statues of Julius Sterling Morton and William Jennings Bryan, which have stood proudly for over eighty years and will be rehomed in Nebraska.

The Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Selection Committee was created to select a sculptor, review and approve plans for the statue, and identify a method to obtain funding for the project. No state funds are allocated to the project, so a cash fund was created to accept private donations and will be administered by History Nebraska.

Laurie Smith Camp, Senior U.S. District Judge, has already provided a generous donation and graciously shared her motivation. “As a life-long Nebraskan, I’m extraordinarily grateful to our state senators for their decision to recognize two courageous individuals, Ponca Chief Standing Bear and Willa Cather, who continue to inspire and influence a growing number of people world-wide,” Camp said. “I offered my support for Willa Cather’s statue because reading her novels and stories in the late 1990s changed the course of my life. The opportunity to support a work of art in Cather’s likeness, which will stand in our national Capitol for generations to come, was something I could not pass up, and the chance to participate in this moment was too sweet to lose.” Of the one hundred statues representing fifty states,

Creighton University sculpture professor and renowned midwestern sculptor Littleton Alston has won the Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Competition, which drew more than seventy artist applicants from throughout the U.S. It is Alston’s intention to capture the essence of Cather in sculptural form, as well as her keen intellect and sensitivity. Alston was particularly struck by photos of Cather, noting “the twinkle in her eyes, and the sense that she was a vividly intelligent individual. I aim to capture her standing, as if surrounded by nature, at home in the Nebraska prairie.”

Cather’s likeness will join six other women currently represented, including Helen Keller and Sakakawea. The Cather statue is expected to be installed in 2020. We will share news regarding its creation and the installation ceremony as the process unfolds. A special thanks to Willa Cather Foundation member Peg O’Dea Lippert, for conceiving the idea of proposing Cather for inclusion in Statuary Hall, and to State Senators Tom Brewer and Burke Harr for their work on LB 807.