Deena C. Bouknight – Contrinbuting Writer
On May 20, the Town of Franklin Town Council agreed to designate $15,000 in the budget to go toward a sculpture that will eventually be unveiled as part of the Women’s History Trail and the Town’s Nikwasi Mound-area beautification. Already, $90,000 in pledges and donations have been raised for the first phase of the sculpture, according to Barbara McRae, vice mayor and an organizer of Women’s History Trail.
“The Town adding $15,000 is fantastic,” said McRae. “It will benefit the Town … something people can be proud of and take inspiration from.”
Renowned figurative sculptor Wesley Wofford, whose studio is in Cashiers, was commissioned last year to begin the process of creating a sculpture representing the contributions of women to Macon County. The sculpture includes three historical, matriarchal, and local figures: a white woman, an African American woman, and a Cherokee woman.” Their names are Timoxena Siler Sloan, Sally (last name unknown), and Rebecca Morris.
Wofford was chosen at least partly because of his ability to create works of art that are both realistically and dramatically expressed.
“He’s local, which is a big thing, but when we visited his studio, we were just blown away,” said McRae.
His career began in Hollywood, where he has worked on more than 75 motion pictures and television shows, including “A Beautiful Mind,” “Hannibal,” “Batman and Robin,” “The Rock,” and “Collateral.” He has won both an Academy Award and an Emmy. His interest in advanced translucent silicones led him to develop his own formulas and techniques. He has worked to transform – through special effects makeup – the likes of such actors as Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Will Smith, and Russell Crowe.
Currently, the sculpture project is in what is deemed the design maquette phase, a rough clay likeness that is only one-third the size of what will eventually become a seven-foot bronze finished sculpture. The sculptor 3D scans them and then 3D prints the armature for the final figures. Once the scan is done, they can be reproduced at any size.
“The final piece will be a public sculpture, owned by the Town,” said McRae, who explained that another $300,000 needs to be raised to pay for the sculpture, “unforeseen incidentals, plus the cost of preparing a base, transportation, insurance, etc.” She added, “It seems like a lot of money, and some of us had sticker shock when we first heard the figure, but the sculpture includes three larger-than-life figures, a child, and infant. We’ve compared it with costs for similar works in other cities and feel we are getting a real bargain, as well as an incredible piece of art that will put Franklin on the map.”
Currently, McRae and others are investigating various grants that may help pay for the sculpture.
The grassroots campaign to raise funds to pay for the sculpture has generated significant donations from local philanthropists and individuals, a number of smaller gifts, and ongoing monies contributed through volunteer-organized sales of cookies, native plants, lemonade, books, etc.
“Wesley calls the sculpture ‘Sowing Seeds for the Future,’ given that it shows the Cherokee figure, Rebecca, pouring corn into the hands of little Timoxena, and the grown Timoxena taking a basket of corn and apples from Salley, the African American. I tend to call it ‘Three Women,’ for short,” said McRae.
She anticipates it may take two to maybe three years to finish raising the funds for the sculpture. However, improvement plans for the Nikwasi Mound and surrounding areas will most likely take just as long. McRae said there is a chance the sculpture unveiling could coincide with the completion of Nikwasi Initiative’s education and beautification plans for the area.