New Riverfront Sculpture Honors Underground Railroad Champions Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett
Posted on 10/03/2012 3:40 pm
The City of Wilmington and the Riverfront Development Corporation today hosted an unveiling and dedication ceremony for a monumental sculpture honoring Harriet Tubman, leader of the Underground Railroad, and Thomas Garrett, the famed Quaker abolitionist of Wilmington. The sculpture is installed in the park named after the historic figures—Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park near the intersection of Rosa Parks Drive and Market Street in Wilmington.
The new monument depicts Tubman and Garrett in dramatic poses as they assist escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad. Titled Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom, the piece was created by master sculptor Mario Chiodo of Oakland, California, who won the commission following a nationwide search and nine-month selection process. The finished sculpture measures nine feet in height; seven-feet, six-inches in width; and 10-feet, six-inches in length. Installation of the 3,000-pound bronze sculpture was performed by Cirillo Bros. Inc., a New Castle, DE family-owned and operated business.
The $220,000 project was funded through the City of Wilmington’s Percent for Art funds.Wilmington City Code requires that all municipal construction contracts let by the city for the construction or remodeling of public buildings or structures shall include a sum of money amounting to five percent of the estimated construction cost of the building or structure for ornamentation. In the event that the five percent sum is not used for the incorporation of ornamentation in the construction project, it shall be placed in the artwork reserve fund, which can be used for public art projects such as the new Tubman-Garrett sculpture.
“Wilmington is fortunate to have many fine examples of public art that beautify our public spaces, encourage neighborhood pride, and express our City’s values,” said Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker. “And this new sculpture is a welcome addition to Wilmington’s public art landscape. Now Wilmingtonians and visitors alike can enjoy a beautifully executed piece of art while at the same time learning about our City’s heritage—namely our important link to the Underground Railroad.”
Joining the Mayor and representing Wilmington City Council at today’s event were Council Members Charles Potter, Jr. (1st District), Eric D. Robinson (3rd District), and Charles M. “Bud” Freel (At-Large). Other elected officials in attendance were State Senator Margaret Rose Henry (2nd District), State Representative James “J.J.” Johnson (16th District), and Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart.
Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom was commissioned under the guidance of the Tubman-Garrett Sculpture Selection Committee, which was comprised by Bebe Coker, community leader and civil-rights activist; Raye Jones Avery, Director of the Christina Cultural Arts Center; Danielle Rice, Executive Director of the Delaware Art Museum; Patricia Lewis, Harriett-Tubman scholar; Megan McGlinchey, Director of Operations for the Riverfront Development Corporation; and Michael Purzycki, Executive Director of the Riverfront Development Corporation. The Selection Committee was advised by Project Coordinator Tina Betz, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of Wilmington and managed by Oasis Design Group – a landscape architecture firm in Baltimore, Maryland that specializes in the installation of large-scale public art.
Today’s ceremony also included a presentation by the Delaware Department of Transportation’s Byways Program of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway (HTURB) Corridor Management Plan, a document that seeks to assist in the preservation and recognition of intrinsic Delaware resources for an important American story – the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. As the 100th anniversary of the passing of Harriet Tubman approaches in 2013, HTURB will be planning activities, in concert with surrounding states and as outlined in the Corridor Management Plan, to celebrate the role of the Underground Railroad in liberating enslaved African Americans. The document is a required element of the state byways program, as well as the National Byways and All-American Road Programs. The creation of the Byway and the planning document is a collaboration of grassroots organizations, agencies, universities and individuals. The planning document was financially supported by 19 members of the General Assembly in 2009 (25 affected legislators were asked to contribute matching funds to the grant obtained by DelDOT).
About the Sculptor
Mario Chiodo has been the owner, designer and lead sculptor of his own firm (ChiodoArt Development) for 25 years in California’s Bay Area. From consumer products and play sculptures for children, to large monumental installations, Mario has created artwork that delights and teases the imagination all over the country.
Mario is considered a Classical sculptor—a skilled artist capable of depicting likenesses with breathtaking detail and gesture. Through both bas-relief panels and fully dimensional sculptures, his works effectively convey history via inspirational figurative artworks which are acutely narrative and evocative. Mario received a large commission from Harrah’s New Orleans to sculpt the History of Jazz through eleven eight-foot tall panels and three feature sculptures. In 2008, Mario completed the prestigious commission to sculpt the founder of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs - Lt. General Hubert Harmon. Mario has also been chosen to create artwork for several Native American developments that document historical events and unique cultural details.
During the past 10 years, Mario has found himself drawn particularly to distinct public representational art. His goal is to transcend the physical impact of sculpture by linking the personal history of the viewer to the artwork, touching the viewer’s emotions through the passion captured in the work. Mario’s sculpture of Nelson Mandela, called Triumph over Apartheid, is in the collections of both Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Maya Angelou.
Mario has just completed an epic bronze monument dedicated to 25 international humanitarians in Oakland, California. The largest monument west of the Mississippi, Remember Them: Champions for Humanity will inspire the public – particularly young people – to deepen their personal commitment to humanitarian values and action in their own lives and communities. Mario believes that the lessons of history should never be forgotten and aims to enrich the lives of others through his art.
Remember Them and Unwavering Courage in the Pursuit of Freedom are only the beginning of Mario’s vision for a Freedom March of Art: a series of inspirational monuments that ignite hope across the globe by portraying the human potential for altruism, courage and perseverance in the quest for equality, freedom and peace.