click to enlarge Lincoln Top Hat restored
PHOTO BY KAREN WITTER
Felicia Olin with her 2009 artwork outside the Illinois State Museum.

Felicia Olin was voted best visual artist for Illinois Times Best of Springfield 2022, continuing her many consecutive wins. In 2009, she painted a large fiberglass Lincoln top hat for the Hats Off To Lincoln Bicentennial Project sponsored by Springfield Rotary. This was Olin's first big project when she was an emerging artist. Her inspiration was Vachel Lindsay's poem, Lincoln. The popular hat has graced the porch of the Illinois State Museum (ISM) ever since. Weather and throngs of schoolchildren took their toll. The Illinois State Museum Society recently received a grant from the Sangamon County Historical Society for Olin to refurbish the hat.

"It is one of my proudest things to have worked on," Olin said at a rededication event at the ISM on Nov. 2. Brian Barstead coordinated the 2009 initiative and the call for artists on behalf of Rotary. At the recent event, he shared what Olin wrote when submitting her proposed design: "I liked Lindsay's comparison of freeing the slaves to a prairie fire. Sometimes we have to burn away our old thinking in order to make way for betterment of everyone." When she painted the hat, she had no idea where it would be placed. The design featuring a prairie fire, bison, Lincoln and Vachel Lindsay poem was a perfect fit for the ISM. The Illinois Education Association, located across the street, was the ideal sponsor.

Olin's father took her to the ISM as a child. She never dreamed she would create a work of art that would be on the front porch of the museum near the iconic yellow sculpture she enjoyed as a child. Hidden within her design is a dedication to her father.

About The Author

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...

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for more than 40 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Now more than ever, we’re asking for your support to continue providing our community with real news that everyone can access, free of charge.

We’re also offering a home delivery option as an added convenience for friends of the paper.

Click here to subscribe, or simply show your support for Illinois Times.

Got something to say?
Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment