Schaefer statue back on track with new sponsor

October 22, 2008|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

Six months after Baltimore banker Edwin F. Hale Sr. dropped out of a plan to erect an Inner Harbor statue to honor former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, another local businessman has offered to complete the project as a gift to the city.

Willard Hackerman, chief executive of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., has offered to pay for the Schaefer statue by Baltimore sculptor Rodney Carroll.

Baltimore's Public Art Commission is scheduled to meet today to consider revised plans for the project, first presented last year and estimated to cost up to $500,000. The commission must approve the project before it can be placed on city-owned property.

The commission had expressed concerns about the location Hale preferred, a spot on the plaza between the two Harborplace pavilions. Members also questioned the figure's stance and the fact that it was raised on a 6-foot pedestal.

Hale, chairman and chief executive of First Mariner Bancorp, backed out of the project after the commissioners questioned both the location he preferred and Carroll's preliminary designs.

Hackerman subsequently offered to pay for the project, and the sculptor and landscape architect Carol Macht have been working to address the commissioners' concerns about the design and location, according to Bill Gilmore, executive director of Baltimore's Office of Promotion and the Arts.

The latest plan calls for the Schaefer statue to be installed along the west shore of the Inner Harbor, between the Baltimore Visitor Center and the Light Street pavilion of Harborplace. The figure has been modified, and will not be on a raised pedestal as in the original design.

Schaefer, who will turn 87 on Nov. 2, said he was surprised to hear that the statue project was up for consideration again and pleased to hear that Hackerman was backing it.

"I thought it was dead," Schaefer said yesterday. "He'll do a good job. Everything he does is first-rate."

Even if it doesn't work out, Schaefer added, "it was nice of him to think of me."

Hackerman stepped forward because he believes there should be a statue to honor Schaefer, said Lainy Lebow-Sachs, a member of the group originally working with Hale on the project.

"It's wonderful," Lebow-Sachs said of Hackerman's involvement. "He thinks the governor walks on water, as I do, and he just wanted this to be done."

Schaefer served as Baltimore's mayor from 1971 to 1987, governor of Maryland from 1987 to 1995, and state comptroller from 1999 to 2007. He was mayor during the openings of Harborplace, the National Aquarium and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Hackerman's company was the lead contractor for those structures and many others throughout Maryland.

The art commission meeting will start at 4 p.m. at 417 E. Fayette St. If the commission approves the project and it is approved by other city agencies as well, the statue would take about a year to fabricate and install. The target completion date is Nov. 2, 2009, Schaefer's 88th birthday.

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