State and local officials will dedicate a new sculpture commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase survey at 10 a.m. on Feb. 20 in the atrium of the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. The sculpture is located in front of the center.
The ceremony will feature a christening with water taken from the Arkansas and St. Francis rivers, according to a press release from the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.
The Louisiana Purchase survey sculpture is a gift to the city commissioned by the Committee for Louisiana Purchase Survey Bicentennial Monument, headed by John Gill and Sharon Priest. The committee has raised money for the project during the past 12 years.
The project was postponed until the committee raised the $190,000 needed to pay for it in 2015.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock art professor Michael Warrick and UA at Little Rock alum Aaron Hussey together created the 18-by-12-foot sculpture, titled “Straight Lines on a Round World.” Hussey is now a sculptor living in Baton Rouge, La., according to a press release from UA at Little Rock.
It was formed out of stainless steel, cast bronze, tempered glass and concrete. Its main feature is a compass face with an etching of the Louisiana Purchase. Survey tools and lines mimicking latitude and longitude on a globe also are represented.
The survey began in October 1815, when government surveyors set out heading north and west from the Mississippi River, walking between the Arkansas and St. Francis rivers, according to Parks & Tourism. The point at which their paths crossed, at the juncture of what are now Monroe, Lee and Phillips counties in east Arkansas, became the starting place for the survey of the entire Louisiana Territory. That spot is now marked with a National Historic Monument.
Committee heads John Gill and Sharon Priest conceived of the bicentennial monument after navigating the survey’s east-west baseline from the mouth of the St. Francis River to the historical marker in Brinkley, an arduous expedition that took three days to complete, according to the Parks & Tourism press release. “It’s not easy making straight lines on a round world,” Gill said in the release. “The sculpture represents the challenge that mankind has always had with nature.”
The two artists, Hussey and Warrick, previously worked together on the Little Rock Central High School Commemorative Garden, dedicated in 2001 to honor the Little Rock Nine, according to UA at Little Rock.