SIOUX CITY | Pedestrians on Nebraska Street could one day come face to face with the unsung leaders of the Siouxland community.
The Sioux City Council on Monday formally accepted the donation of 13 bronze busts of people who dedicated their lives to represent minority and marginalized groups in Siouxland. The busts are being sculpted by Mark Avery, of McCook Lake, S.D.
The Celebrating Community Project is planned for the east side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Transportation Center at the corner of Fifth and Nebraska streets. The project is a joint effort of the Celebrating Community Foundation, Mark Avery Studios, the Sioux City NAACP and the city of Sioux City.
The bronze busts will be mounted on pedestals alongside the building with plaques indicating why the person was honored. A bar code also is planned so visitors can use their smartphones to access additional information.
The park area also will include an arch composed of various twisted steel beams, which will be illuminated at night.
“These are local heroes, local people right here in Sioux City. Children will see that you don’t have to come from means to do something really effective,” said LeeAnn Kurtz Gill, a member of the project’s steering committee.
Each individual represents a different demographic group. As of Monday, 12 of 13 representatives had been named.
Flora Lee, president of the Celebrating Community Foundation, said the group had only released five names in order to give the foundation an opportunity to contact family members of those selected.
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Those released so far are Rabbi Albert Gordon, representing Jewish Americans; Beulah Webb, representing the elderly; Marilyn Murphy, representing women; Sgt. John Rice, representing veterans; and Connie Spain, representing those who have recovered from substance abuse.
Avery said the opportunity to sculpt each bust has given him the unique opportunity to learn about citizens who influenced entire communities.
“It’s been so wonderful to be able to learn about all the goodness these individuals had," he said. “This breaks down how people love their community regardless of age, gender or race.”
The Celebrating Community Foundation agreed to fund the project through private donations and fundraising. The $540,000 price tag will pay for costs associated with casting the busts in bronze, installation of lighting and other maintenance costs. Kurtz-Gill said the group has raised approximately $150,000 to date.
Avery said the statues could be completed by next spring, with installation sometime in the fall.
After the council’s unanimous approval, Lee said she was pleased with the city’s efforts to help bring the project to downtown Sioux City.
“What really has been great is the working relationship between the foundation, the city of Sioux City, the City Council and the staff,” she said. “Making it all work together has been wonderful because we need great things like this in Sioux City.”
Councilwoman Rhonda Capron said she was eager to see the project come to fruition.
“This will enhance downtown Sioux City and also acknowledge the diverse people that helped make the city into what it is today,” she said.