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New Eatonton monument: the vision and the artists

August 28, 2020 - 00:00
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    Art: “The harmonious expression of one’s vision of life.” - Basil Watson CONTRIBUTED
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    As a world renowed sculptor, Basil Watson is currently under a commission by the City of Atlanta to create a piece of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The statue is 12 feet tall and will be placed at the end of MLK Boulevard facing Mercedes-

With initial groundwork completed, the Advisory Committee had the difficult task of finding just the right sculptor to bring the life and legacy of Hiram Little to its permanent home in downtown Eatonton.

The committee reached out to renowned artist Joseph Norman for his thoughts on the project.

A professor of art at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, Norman is a distinguished visiting professor of art at Johnson & Wales University. He is the former Chairman of the Painting and Drawing Department and founder of study abroad Latin America, Cuba, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

Norman has lived and worked in Canada, Germany, Spain, Costa Rica and Cuba. His works are housed in America’s most important museums and public collections including, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The National Gallery and Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.

Norman is a bigger than life Hemmingwayesque character. Like the Pied Piper of old, everywhere he travels children flock to him to hear his funny stories and watch him draw and paint pictures. A highly regarded educator and artist, Norman is widely considered a worldclass draughtsman and printmaker.

Many scholars and art historians place Norman among the most important African American lithographers of his generation. Norman has worked with the youth populations of the Caribbean, Central and South America for decades.

A sensitive voice in the art world, he dedicates time and energy to empowering young people through the creative process of mural painting. Through his community outreach and service learning initiatives in the arts, Norman has touched the lives and sparked the imaginations of thousands of youths.

In the end, Norman said there was only one man for the job after finding and vetting Basil Watson.

“To have a world class artist interested in doing this project is fantastic,” said Jim Stone of the monument’s advisory committee. “He liked the idea of doing something like this in a small town.”

With a project and a price tag that could reach $200,000, Stone said it was important to lock in the right guy for the job.

“We need something we can circle around in this community,” he said.

The son of internationally known painter Barrington Watson, Basil was born in Jamaica and studied at the Jamaica School of Art. In 2002, Watson came to the United States and set up his home and studio in Lawrenceville.

During his 40-year career, he has completed major works in China, Guatemala and in the U.S., including several major commissions for various governments and organizations all over the world.

“We sat down with Basil and talked for a long time, and we just knew he was the guy,” Stone said.

It is estimated that, once the process of building the statue begins, it could take up to 18 months to complete with the new statue expected to be very interactive that will exude the vision, energy, beauty, strength, positive emotions and attitudes of Basil Watson.

All trademarks of the man who will bring the story of heroism and bravery in Hiram E. Little to life.