June 20th, 2018 was the contract signing ceremony for the start of the Fannie Mae Duncan Statue project. Thank you to all who were able to attend. Kay Esmiol of the Steering Committee asked me to say a few words in a speech and I thought that I would share them with here:


Sculpting a Legend

“Dear Fannie Mae Duncan….We’d like to borrow your life.”

That’s a line from Chapter 1 of Kay Esmiol’s biography of Fannie Mae Duncan.  It’s the salutation of the letter that Kay wrote to Mrs. Duncan asking permission to share her amazing life story as a play written for Kay’s students.

I think that this one line sums up what we are all doing here today….and what my job is.

I’m a sculptor.

It’s my job to capture not just the physical likeness of a person but to convey their personality, their spirit and their life’s accomplishments.

My job is to sculpt a legend….

But “Legend” sounds a bit remote, doesn’t it? Unreachable? Superhuman perhaps?

Well, certainly the energy and accomplishments of Fannie Mae Duncan seem Superhuman. 

She did things that would be very difficult for anyone today….and the fact that she was black, the daughter of poor Oklahoma sharecroppers, and a woman in an era of Jim Crow and the idea that women belonged at home and in the kitchen make those accomplishments all the more astounding.

Fannie Mae had the drive, the optimism and the intelligence to be successful….but she may not have been able to achieve all the successes that she did if her family had stayed in Oklahoma. 

The city of Colorado Springs plays an integral part of the Fannie Mae Duncan story. Certainly there was rampant racism and segregation here as in most of America, but Colorado Springs also had a vibrant and thriving black community and a unique difference from most cities: a fully integrated school system.

Fannie Mae learned tolerance and respect for people of all races from her parents but that was reinforced in Jr. High and High School where she took classes and made friends with black, hispanic and white students alike.

These were experiences that shaped her and culminated in her life’s philosophy of “Everybody Welcome”. 

I’d like to read to you an excerpt from the Green Paper by the Americans for the Arts titled, “Why Public Art Matters”

Cities gain value through public art – cultural, social, and economic value. Public art is a distinguishing part of our public history and our evolving culture. It reflects and reveals our society, adds meaning to our cities and uniqueness to our communities. Public art humanizes the built environment and invigorates public spaces. It provides an intersection between past, present and future, between disciplines, and between ideas. 

I would to add that public art has the ability to celebrate and elevate us all. When we recognize the best in someone, we share those attributes with our communities - with our children - and shine a light on the people, the achievements and the values that we would most like to emulate and promote. And I’m proud and honored to partner with Colorado Springs in making history by creating a sculpture celebrating an African American woman.

The process of making a life size bronze sculpture is long, arduous and collaborative. We are fortunate to have some of the finest bronze foundries right here in Colorado and this journey will take a little over a year to complete.

There is a Special Edition Blog I created on my website dedicated to documenting the entire process from research and design, sculpting, enlarging, mold-making, casting, patina and finally installation of the bronze sculpture of Fannie Mae Duncan.

It begins with extensive research, learning all that I can about Fannie Mae and compiling a binder full of photos, notes, quotes, observations, period clothing reference - including fabulous hats - and ideas. Then I brainstorm and make sketches of these ideas to determine poses, style of dress, and body language to best express her personality. Additionally I’ll sculpt a life-size bust of Mrs. Duncan in order to become very familiar with her facial features and mannerisms which will be useful as a model when sculpting the full figure.

Some of the preliminary sketches are then developed into loose maquettes - which are small, sculpted models, allowing me to work in 3D to refine the pose and work out issues relating to the mechanics of casting in bronze. The final maquette is then sculpted in detail at 1/4 life-size scale to be presented to the Steering Committee for review and approval. This maquette becomes the model for the life-size enlargement.

Next I build the armature to scale and sculpt the final full-size clay figure. When the clay sculpture is completed and approved, we make a polyurethane rubber mold and pour the hollow wax to begin the process of lost-wax bronze casting.

The cast bronze sections are welded together and the patina artist applies the traditional bronze patina. Finally the life-size sculpture is installed on a plinth in front of the Pike’s Peak Center for the Performing Arts.

There Fannie Mae will be in the limelight once more, her bronze sculpture greeting patrons of the arts and all members of our community in the spirit of “Everybody Welcome.”

Thank you.

FMD Contract signing 1a
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