The sculpture will honor Rutland native Martin Henry Freeman, the first African American president of an American college, and one of the leading African American education advocates of the 1800s.
Freeman was born May 11, 1826, and lived on Main Street. He attended Middlebury College, graduating in 1849 as salutatorian, and became a stalwart abolitionist and advocate for the education of black Americans. The grandson of a slave who earned his freedom by fighting in the Revolutionary War, Freeman became president of the Allegheny Institute, later known as Avery College. He later emigrated to Africa, where he was a professor, and later president, at Liberia College until his death in 1889.
The sculpture is being funded by the Wakefield family, Jennifer and Fred Bagley, and Donald Billings and Sara Pratt. The artwork will be the sixth in the initiative led by the Carving Studio & Sculpture Center, Green Mountain Power, MKF Properties, and Vermont Quarries to further expand the Rutland Sculpture Trail and create art and interest in downtown.
“Freeman was an inspiring and significant leader, and his story is an incredible and surprising one that people should know,” Al Wakefield said. “We are thrilled to be able to help tell his story.”
“Local residents should be aware of and proud of Freeman’s contributions to education, and the push for African American freedom and rights,” Jennifer Bagley said.
“The entire Sculpture Trail series is adding beauty and culture to downtown Rutland, while preserving and bringing to life important history that in many cases, including that of Freeman, has not gotten the awareness it deserves,” added Sara Pratt.
Organizers are seeking artist proposals to sculpt a model, or maquette in clay, to be reproduced in plaster for enlargement and translation to marble. The finished sculpture will be carved at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center this summer.
To apply, artists should send a resumé, a statement/proposal and up to 10 digital images (jpegs) or slides to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, P.O. Box 495, West Rutland, VT 05777. The application deadline is April 19, 2019.
CSSC Executive Director Carol Driscoll said the series has drawn new interest, rave reviews and hundreds of visitors to the center.
“We’re thrilled for the CSSC, but more importantly for the community at large,” she said. “The response has exceeded all of our expectations and shows how art can help spark interest, bring history alive, and add beauty to a downtown.”
The first four pieces, and a fifth to be installed in May, feature history both recent and long ago, men and women, and people of differing backgrounds.
“Our goal is to highlight the incredibly varied, interesting, bold, brave and important people of Rutland County and the region’s past,” GMP Vice President Steve Costello. “Martin Henry Freeman enjoyed each of those qualities, and hopefully will continue to inspire residents today.”
The five current statues include:
“Stone Legacy,” a tribute to the region’s stone industry funded by GMP and MKF, stands in the Center Street Marketplace.
A tribute to Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book,” written in southern Vermont, stands outside Phoenix Books, which underwrote it.
A piece honoring Olympic skier and environmentalist Andrea Mead Lawrence, funded by John and Sue Casella, stands on Merchant’s Row.
A sculpture of Revolutionary War hero Ann Story and her son Solomon stands at the corner of Cottage and West street, funded by the extended Costello family.
A piece honoring African Americans enlisted in Rutland who fought in the Civil War, funded by Rutland Regional Medical Center, will be unveiled in May.
Vermont Quarries is donating the stone for each piece.
“This piece will be a wonderful addition to the Sculpture Trail and the burgeoning art movement in Rutland,” said Mark Foley of MKF Properties. “Art, including the 15 to 20 sculptures we ultimately hope to commission and install, can bring beauty, culture, and history to life, and add to the quality of life for residents, and the experience and impression of visitors.”