Statue in Waukegan to honor Ray Bradbury

  • Depiction of artist Zachary Oxman's sculpture "Ray Bradbury: Fantastical Traveler" that will be created to honor the famous Waukegan native.

    Depiction of artist Zachary Oxman's sculpture "Ray Bradbury: Fantastical Traveler" that will be created to honor the famous Waukegan native. Courtesy of Waukegan Public Library

 
 

Just as revered author Ray Bradbury brought other worlds to life in his books, the vision of a Maryland artist has been selected to commemorate the legacy and achievements of Waukegan's famous native son.

Zachary Oxman's statue called "Ray Bradbury: Fantastical Traveler" will depict an older Bradbury astride a rocket ship waving a book on his way to another whimsical world he portrayed so vividly.

"I think he really captured Ray's spirit and imagination," said Richard Lee, chairman of the Ray Bradbury Statue Committee and executive director of the Waukegan Public Library. "He was familiar with him (Bradbury) and really wanted to go after it."

Bradbury, a renowned master of science fiction and fantasy, was born in Waukegan in 1920 and stayed until the age of 13. Waukegan was the basis for the fictional Green Town in "Dandelion Wine" and other famous works.

He never forgot his roots and visited frequently. He died in 2012 and left his personal book collection valued at $500,000 to the library.

A park in town and the annual storytelling festival are named for Bradbury, but there is no statue like that erected in honor of famous comedian and Waukegan native Jack Benny.

About two years ago, the late Hank Bogdala, who worked on the Jack Benny statue, reached out to Lee, and the pair assembled community and arts leaders to do the same for Bradbury.

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Last year, the committee asked for requests for qualifications to sculptors of public art.

Forty-one submissions worldwide, the farthest from New Zealand, were received. The three selected finalists came to Waukegan to make presentations. The winner was announced Monday.

"When it's done, it will be 12 feet tall to the top of the book and it will (be created with) two to four tons of stainless steel," Lee said.

Oxman described himself as someone who shares stories through his art. The virtual reality segment of his presentation allowed committee members to envision how the statue would look in front of the library.

"We wanted to celebrate Ray's connection to Waukegan, as well as his incredible talent as a storyteller, and Zack's presentation helped us picture exactly how his work would accomplish that," Lee said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Oxman was quoted by library officials as saying Bradbury's writing "was not rooted in the possible world but rather in a fantastical one. I wanted to evoke that whimsicality."

A multifaceted campaign to catch the attention of Bradbury fans is underway to raise $125,000 for the project. Gifts can be made at http://waukeganpl.org/BradburyStatue.

Once under contract and work begins, the creative process will be available via webcam from Oxman's studio in Rockville, Maryland. Lee said he hoped the dedication could take place in about a year.

@dhmickzawislak

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