A Statuesque Schaefer

Newly Unveiled Clay Figure Of Ex-governor Is Big Step In Creation Of His Bronze Likeness

July 20, 2009|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Ed.gunts@baltsun.com

The familiar Seal of Baltimore tie tack is in its proper place. So are the well-worn "Willie Don" wing tip shoes. And the Jos. A. Bank wool suit with the baggy pants.

There's even a mayor's action memo with the words "Do It Now" scribbled near the bottom.

The larger-than-life statue of former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor William Donald Schaefer, which will be dedicated at the Inner Harbor this fall, is full of Schaefer touches even though he was unable to pose for the sculpting because of his advanced age.

"My goal was, if you photographed it, you would never know it wasn't Schaefer standing there," said artist Rodney Carroll, as he offered an early look at what he has been working on at his West Baltimore studio for more than two years. "It's really meant to be him."

FOR THE RECORD - A caption accompanying an article Monday about a statue of William Donald Schaefer misstated where it will be placed. It will be on the west shore of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, between the Light Street pavilion of Harborplace and the Baltimore Visitor Center.
The Sun regrets the error.

Creation of the statue reached a key point over the weekend when the artist and his assistants put the final touches on a 7-foot-2-inch clay figure of Schaefer, so the New Arts Foundry of Baltimore can make a mold that will be used to create a bronze cast.

Carroll said one of the most challenging aspects of the commission is that Schaefer, now 87 and in fragile health, hasn't been able to pose for his statue the way former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall did when Reuben Kramer created his likeness years ago.

Although Schaefer went to his studio in January and had his measurements taken, the artist said, it was clear that Schaefer couldn't stand for long periods. Even if he could, Carroll said, he wanted to depict a robust Schaefer looking the way he did when Harborplace opened in 1980, when the then-mayor was 58.

"I wanted to represent him in the glory days," said Carroll, 59. "I wanted to have him in a wonderful, exuberant, celebratory, challenging posture that became very Schaefer."

Unable to use Schaefer as his model, Carroll improvised. He got photos of Schaefer from 1980, enlarged them, and posted them around his studio. He studied film footage of Schaefer. He employed models with bodies similar to Schaefer's.

He also used some of Schaefer's clothes and possessions as a way of imbuing the statue with a sense of authenticity. Working with Schaefer and longtime aide Lainy Lebow-Sachs, now senior vice president of external relations at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, he borrowed some of Schaefer's tie tacks, several suit coats, even a pair of his brown wing tip shoes. For the 7-foot statue, the clay versions all had to be 20 percent larger than in real life.

"You can buy a shoe that's similar to what he wore, and it would be stiff and lifeless. But you can get his shoe and see how it's worn, the way he sinks into his shoes," Carroll said. "We have taken the worn pieces of his life and character and existence and employed them in this piece. What we're really doing is taking balls of clay and making a person out of them."

Over the past week, Carroll has been showing the statue to people who helped make it possible, such as donor Willard Hackerman and his wife, Lillian, and Lebow-Sachs. Schaefer, who moved to a retirement community last year, was invited to see it but did not come. He could not be reached last week.

The project was launched when Baltimore banker Edwin F. Hale Sr. commissioned Carroll to create a statue of Schaefer that could be erected between the two Harborplace pavilions in Baltimore's Inner Harbor district.

Although Schaefer has many public buildings named after him, Hale said, he believed the city needs a statue to commemorate Schaefer's life as a public servant, including his terms as a City Council member (1955-1967), council president (1967-1971), mayor of Baltimore (1971-1987), governor of Maryland (1987-1995), and state comptroller (1999-2007).

The city's Public Art Commission questioned Hale's preferred location and suggested that the donor consider alternatives, such as a spot between the Light Street pavilion of Harborplace and the Baltimore Visitor Center.

Hale backed out but Carroll kept working. The project was revived when Hackerman, a Baltimore businessman, replaced Hale as the donor and agreed to the West Shore location.

As a result, no public funds are being used to create the statue, but it will rise on city-owned land. The estimated cost of the statue and surrounding "Schaefer Sculpture Garden" is $500,000. A dedication ceremony is tentatively set for Nov. 2, Schaefer's 88th birthday.

The statue depicts Schaefer with his left hand waving, "as if he sees someone he really likes in a crowd." Carroll said. In his right hand is a "Mayor's Action Memorandum," a slip of paper on which he jotted notes about filling potholes and other tasks he wanted addressed right away. The memo reads: "Have you helped someone today? Do It Now. Schaefer." It's numbered 11221, the day Schaefer was born.

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