Kansas City artist Spencer Schubert unveiled a one-third maquette of the bronze sculpture of Judge Isaac Parker that will serve as the centerpiece of Gateway Park in downtown Fort Smith during a “meet the artist” press event for the park Tuesday (Dec. 18) at Propak headquarters on Garrison Avenue.
The sculpture will depict Parker seated in a chair reading a law book as he faces Washington D.C. The sculpture will sit on a four-foot stone pedestal and will stand just over seven feet tall, Schubert said.
The sculpture of Parker will join two others — ones of John Carnall and Mother Superior Mary Teresa Farrell. Carnall, born in 1818, was an early leader in the Fort Smith Public School system, and Farrell, who arrived in Fort Smith in 1853, was instrumental in bringing healthcare to the region.
Organizers of the park wanted to depict three of the big components of Fort Smith’s history — law and order, education and healthcare — with the statues, said Rick Griffin.
The statue of Farrell will be on the church side of the park, while Carnall’s statue will be on the back. The park will also feature the United States and the Arkansas state flag. Cost for the statues will be about $342,000.
Gateway Park will be built within the triangle of land in eastern downtown Fort Smith created by the intersection of Rogers and Garrison Avenues.
“The eastern entrance to downtown Fort Smith, at the intersection of Garrison Avenue and Rogers Avenue, represents an opportunity for a beautiful and memorable gateway into our downtown,” noted literature about the park project.
The Gateway Park project will be managed by 64.6 Downtown, the group behind The Unexpected festival, Invest Fort Smith summit and other downtown promotions. They will initially own and develop the park and then transfer ownership to the city.
The $750,000 project is a private/public partnership, Griffin said, noting the park will be built with privately donated funds.
The Griffin family donated $50,000 to the park at the Tuesday event, leaving less than $100,000 needed to meet fundraising goals.
“Rarely does a group of people have the confidence and vision as to make the statement of three statues in a park right at the front of downtown. So I think it’s a testament to the strength of the community leaders that they are willing to make that commitment,” Schubert said of the park.
Schubert of Kansas City, Mo.-based E.S. Schubert Sculpture Studios received his BFA in sculpture from the University of Kansas in 2000. He lives in Kansas City and works in a studio in the Crossroads Art District.
He has created portrait busts for the Missouri Capitol Building, a monument of Bill Snyder for Kansas State University, a monument of Academy-Award winning playwright William Inge, and a monument of David Regan for Fort Scott, Kan., as well as contemporary work in private and corporate collections across the Midwest, his biographical information states.
“His work uses the figure to explore the strengths, weaknesses, successes and idiosyncrasies of the human race,” Schubert touts.
The Fort Smith Central Business Improvement District (CBID) approved a demolition request for a multi-colored building that once housed AC Taylor Mobile Service Station that is located on property where the park will be built at its meeting earlier Tuesday morning.
Griffin said demolition of the building would start the construction process of the park, which is scheduled for the first of April 2019. The statues are expected to be in place and the park will open to the public Oct. 1, he added.