ALPLM unveils new outdoor sculpture

The "Beacon of Endurance" marks Lincoln's words

The sculpture at night, showing the illumination of the words onto the museum wall at Seventh and Jefferson.

The "Beacon of Endurance" is a new 25-foot-tall outdoor sculpture at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM), located on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Seventh streets. The obelisk, which is lit for several hours at night, features words and quotations that embody the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Equality, courage, freedom, emancipation, vigilance, opportunity and progress are some of the words emblazoned on the stainless-steel upper part of the sculpture that are visible day and night. Unity, peace, truth, hope and dream are some of the words that are visible only at night when illuminated on the wall of the museum. The bottom third of the sculpture is designed to weather and rust over time and includes some of Lincoln's most powerful quotations.

ALPLM dedicated the sculpture at a July 19 ceremony. "Abraham Lincoln's words deserve to be remembered," said Gary Johnson, chairman of the ALPLM board of trustees. He emphasized the powerful nature of public art. The sculpture is positioned to serve as a beacon welcoming the many people who pass by the ALPLM on Jefferson Street as they enter the downtown area.

The $223,000 project was funded through the Illinois Capital Development Board's Art-in-Architecture program. One-half of one percent of the cost of state building and renovation projects is allocated to commission or purchase public art for state buildings. CDB solicits proposals from Illinois artists for public art projects, and a fine arts review committee makes the final selection. Robert Sill (Illinois State Museum), Lance Tawzer (ALPLM) and Andy Van Meter (Sangamon County Board) served on the review committee which selected BJ Krivanek and Joel Breaux of the Chicago firm Krivanek+Breaux/Art+Design. Krivanek is an artist and professor emeritus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Linda Norbut Suits, Art-in-Architecture coordinator for CDB, said nearly 900 public art projects have been created since the program was established in 1978. The process to create the new sculpture for the ALPLM took 3½ years to come to fruition.

Tawzer, ALPLM director of exhibits and shows, said the committee was impressed with the artist's use of messaging. Symbolically, the sculpture is "stately but fragile," said Tawzer. Krivanek designed the obelisk form to be slightly off-kilter to suggest democratic vulnerabilities. "Its materiality bridges from the base of Industrial Age rusted steel rooted in the land, to the Space Age stainless steel of its upper form reaching skyward," Krivanek said in a statement. "At night, the artform will transform through illumination and the ephemeral projection of societal ideals and issues onto the museum walls, to become the afterlife of Lincoln's totemic cultural significance."

Although the ALPLM is nearly 20 years old, the amount of funding allocated for public art as part of the original building construction had not been fully spent, providing an opportunity to create this new sculpture. John McClarey's bronze Lincoln sculpture, A Greater Task, was created for Union Square park in 2006 through the Art-in-Architecture program allocation resulting from construction of the ALPLM.

Karen Ackerman Witter is a frequent contributor to Illinois Times. She is a former associate director of the Illinois State Museum which collaborates with CDB on the Art-in-Architecture program.

Karen Ackerman Witter

Karen Ackerman Witter started freelance writing after a 35-year career in state government holding various senior leadership positions. Prior to retiring she was associate director of the Illinois State Museum for 14 years. She is the past president of the Kidzeum Board of Directors and is an active volunteer...

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