The newly unveiled statue of Barack Obama will take its place as part of the City of Presidents displays in downtown Rapid City Monday morning.
Dallerie Davis said the organization considered multiple designs for the statue of the United States’ 44th president. One idea included President Obama sitting in a bus seat once occupied by Rosa Parks.
“But it was hard to design a statue of a man sitting in a bus seat,” Davis said. The board also considered a statue with Obama walking and waving. He would walk across pavers with the names of human, civil and women’s rights leaders with blank pavers in front leaving room for those leaders of the future.
That design made it to the design phase where its quality was easily recognized.
“But it was boring,” Davis said. “A man waving isn’t a show stopper.”
So they went back to the drawing board. Using the idea that some of the most popular statues have featured presidents with their children or dogs, they began seeking another design. The choice settled on an iconic photo of Obama with his younger daughter Sasha as he took the stage at his first inauguration as the country’s first black president.
“The idea of a man and his daughter was meaningful to me because my daughter was literally my best friend,” said artist James Van Nuys, who has designed three other presidential statues. He spent between 400 and 500 hours on the statue. “I hope people will like it. I think they will.”
Van Nuys said he was very happy with the turnout at the Elks Theatre Saturday for the unveiling.
“How could you not be happy,” he said, referring to the standing room only crowd. “We have never had a crowd like this before.”
Van Nuys said as an artist, he was pleased that the board chose the design with Obama and his daughter rather than the pavers. When it comes to the visual impact or the meaningfulness of the piece, as the artist, he prefers to favor the visual appeal.
One couple drove more than three hours to be at the unveiling.
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“That was a ‘wow’ moment,” said Sharon Huizenga of Platte, South Dakota about the unveiling of the statue. Huizenga and her husband Norm were present for President Obama’s first inauguration when the iconic photo the statue was based on was captured.
“We were a lot closer today,” Norm said. “We were really surprised at the size of the crowd today. The whole place was full.”
The photo wasn’t the only model for the statue. Van Nuys used his friend and fellow musician Bob Fahey as the model for Obama’s waving hand. He used Fahey’s granddaughter Ariah Cloud, who was present for the unveiling, as the model for Sasha Obama’s waving hand.
Richard Perdue took his father’s spot on the City of President’s Board.
“Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths,” he joked. “I guess mine was bronze.”
He honored his father, Don Perdue, for his vision and work convincing people and donors that an artistic project could also drive economic development in the downtown area.
“You don’t have to spend much time watching people interact with the presidents to see what it means to downtown commerce,” Perdue said.
Davis said it was important to the board that the focus of the City of Presidents statues is historic rather than political.
The statue was sponsored by Mike and Marnie Gould. Marnie and their daughters, Aisling and Kelsye helped with the unveiling at the ceremony.
The statue will be placed at its permanent location on the southwest corner of the intersection of 4th and St. Joseph streets.