UP­DATE: Sculp­tures of Dou­glass, L’En­fant Near Com­ple­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - Metro Week -

Two Wash­ing­ton area sculp­tors are busy putting the fi­nal touches on what will be­come two of the largest sculp­tures to be dis­played at the John A. Wil­son Build­ing. Wash­ing­ton area sculp­tors Steven Weitz­man and Gor­don Kray were se­lected last year by the D.C. Com­mis­sion on the Arts and Hu­man­i­ties to work on the sculp­tures of two of the Dis­trict’s most prom­i­nent res­i­dents: civil rights ad­vo­cate, jour­nal­ist and or­a­tor Fred­er­ick Dou­glass and ar­chi­tect and en­gi­neer Pierre Charles L’En­fant.

The sculp­tures are sched­uled to be com­pleted by fall. Dis­trict of­fi­cials hope the sculp­tures’ ul­ti­mate home will be Na­tional Stat­u­ary Hall at the U.S. Capi­tol, which would take ap­proval by Congress. In the mean­time, the works will be on dis­play at the Dis­trict’s gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters.

In Septem­ber, Weitz­man and Kray were cho­sen from 12 fi­nal­ists af­ter a na­tion­wide search.

Weitz­man said be­ing picked to work on the sculp­ture was “a great honor.” He was com­mis­sioned to work on the bronze Dou­glass sculp­ture. Weitz­man, 54, said it will be about 10 feet high and weigh 900 pounds. The sculp­ture will fea­ture Dou­glass stand­ing at a lectern hold­ing a copy of his news­pa­per, the North Star.

Weitz­man said his big­gest chal­lenge has been time. Of­ten he works on the sculp­ture at his stu­dio in Brent­wood un­til 3:30 a.m., then sleeps a bit and re­turns to work about 7 a.m.

Weitz­man was cho­sen af­ter sub­mit­ting his idea with a scale model, a writ­ten pro­posal and a 10-minute movie on how he en­vi­sioned the sculp­ture and the process of com­plet­ing it — erect­ing the sculp­ture first out of clay, then wax and fi­nally in bronze. The sculp­tors were paid $98,000 each for their work. Weitz­man’s work can be seen through­out the Wash­ing­ton area. His piece “Care­tak­ers,” which he sculpted out of a 12-foot dead elm tree, sits out­side Mont­gomery County Cir­cuit Court in Rockville on Mary­land Av­enue. He also de­signed a ter­razzo mu­ral near Largo Metro sta­tion. Work by Kray can be seen on the mon­u­ment for Gen. William Te­cum­seh Sher­man near the White House. Kray worked on the ea­gle mounted on the sculp­ture.

Dorothy McSweeny, chair­woman of the com­mis­sion, said she hoped that the stat­ues would be al­lowed in Stat­u­ary Hall even­tu­ally, along with oth­ers from the 50 states.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton (D-D.C.) has drafted a bill seek­ing per­mis­sion to in­stall the stat­ues at the Capi­tol when they’re com­pleted.

— Keith L. Alexan­der

2005 PHOTO BY MICHAEL WIL­LIAMSON — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Gor­don Kray, who is sculpt­ing Pierre Charles L’En­fant, also worked on the ea­gle at the base of a statue of Gen. William Te­cum­seh Sher­man.

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