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Published: Saturday, 4/12/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Edison sculptor sought for Washington trove

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Thomas Alva Edison, holds his "Edison Effect" light bulb in his West Orange, N.J., laboratory, the first long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Thomas Alva Edison, holds his "Edison Effect" light bulb in his West Orange, N.J., laboratory, the first long-lasting, practical electric light bulb.
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COLUMBUS — Nearly two years after Ohio lawmakers decided to replace the statue of Civil War-era Gov. William Allen in the U.S. Capitol with one of uber-inventor Thomas Alva Edison, the search is on for a sculptor.

The nonprofit Ohio Statuary Hall Commission, charged with completing and funding the project without taxpayer dollars, put out the call this week for sculptors to submit proposals for the marble or bronze representation of the most famous native from the village of Milan, located in Ohio’s Erie County.

The price tag for the sculpture, its pedestal, their transportation to and installation in Washington, and the return of Governor Allen to Ohio is expected to hover around $800,000.

“We’ve made good progress,” said former state Sen. Mark Wagoner of Ottawa Hills, who led the legislative committee that settled on Mr. Edison and who pushed for the legislation that made the switch a reality. “There may only be $35,000 in the bank, but there are companies who’ve expressed strong interest in getting us over the hump.

“We hope now that by sending out [the request for proposals] and getting interest from an artist viewpoint, we’ll have a firmer budget so we can make a better pitch. If you haven’t seen a statue or don’t know who’s going to do it, it’s harder to fund-raise.”

That idea stemmed from Ohioans’ growing dissatisfaction with having Governor Allen standing as one of two images representing the state in the National Statuary Hall collection. The other is of assassinated President William McKinley, whose spot in the Capitol Rotunda remains secure.

“Earthquake Allen” hasn’t worn well over time, even though his tolerance of slavery, opposition to the Civil War, and criticism of then-President Abraham Lincoln were indicative of many people during that era.

The mid-1800s governor, congressman, and U.S. senator is little known by many Ohioans. He lacks the star power of Mr. Edison, who was Life Magazine’s Man of the Millennium and whose name has become synonymous with the innovation that Ohio would prefer to project these days.

Mr. Allen was recently deceased when lawmakers voted him into the Statuary Hall in part as a political counterbalance to Republican President James Garfield.

“We don’t know yet where [the Allen statue] is going,” said Cody Hefner, spokesman for the Cincinnati Museum Center. “Chillicothe has expressed some interest in bringing him there. We just want to make sure he’s brought back in a respectful way to an appropriate location.”

Those interested in submitting proposals — including a concept that may or may not include a small model at this stage — have until 4 p.m. on May 5 to do so.

In addition to their resumes, references, and cost estimates, they must spell out the medium in which they plan to work, bronze or marble, and identify the anticipated source of that material.

Finalists will be selected by May 26, and they will then have until June 30 to submit models of the proposed sculptures. A winner will be selected on July 14.

More details are available at www.ohiostatuaryhall.org. The U.S. Statuary Hall also has rules on what will be accepted.

The $800,000 cost estimate was reached based on what was spent by a handful of other states that have made changes in their statuary representation in recent years. Among them was Michigan, which swapped out Zachariah Chandler, U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Ulysses S. Grant, for President Gerald Ford in 2011.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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