Oakland breaks ground for monument to world’s great humanitarians
on June 21, 2011
In three months, the largest bronze monument in the western United Sates will be standing in downtown Oakland, said Joe Haraburda, president of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce during the ground-breaking ceremony for the monument on Monday afternoon.
The monument, which will be located at Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park, is called “Remember Them: Champions For Humanity,” and will feature the sculptures of 25 humanitarians from around the world, including Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller and Mahatma Gandhi. The four-piece statue, weighing more than 50,000 pounds, will stand 52 feet wide by 21 feet tall, taking up 1,000 square feet of the park’s southwest corner. There will also be a wall around the bottom of the sculpture where visually impaired people who can’t see the monument can touch the faces of those commemorated by the sculpture.
Mario Chiodo, the lead sculptor of the monument and an Oakland native, said he started designing the project after the September 11 terrorist attacks ten years ago to promote peace and diversity. Chiodo said he has chosen these 25 historical figures because they are “examples of people who did extraordinary things under the most difficult circumstances” and represent “common threads of courage and perseverance.”
The construction of the sculpture foundations will start this week and the installation will be completed on September 6, said Haraburda, standing in front of a few renderings of the monument displayed at Monday’s ceremony.
The $9 million project is funded by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Foundation and its major donors include Kaiser Permanente, AT&T and Bank of America. Elected officials from various city departments also have been supportive of the monument, said Chiodo. “There are very few cities who could do something like this—the right people have to show up at the right time, no matter how difficult it has been,” he said.
“It was easy for me to go to Kaiser and talk about how important it was for the community to have something meaningful right here in the middle of the city,” said Bettie Coles, the East Bay area manager for Kaiser Permanente, which contributed more than $1 million to the project. “It took very little time for us to agree this is the way to go,” she added.
“We unanimously supported the project, ” said Vice Mayor Desley Brooks (District 6) at the ceremony on behalf of the City Council. “This project is really representative of Oakland,” she said, adding that the perseverance symbolized by the humanitarians who will be depicted on the monument is what the city needs “in the midst of challenges.”
However, the project today still has a financing gap of roughly $1.8 million, said Chiodo. As a result, only three pieces of the monument are going to be unveiled in September—the fourth piece, which will be the tallest, as well as the feature for the visually impaired would be completed next year, he said.
“In a difficult economic time, it’s not easy,” Chiodo said. “We’re beating the bushes in every direction we can.”
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