On Saturday at 10 a.m., a historical addition was made to downtown Macomb. The Lincoln topiary statue now sits proudly on the lawn of City Hall.
The unveiling of this statue was originally supposed to take place back in April, but sadly the pandemic had other plans. The piece of art, which cost $32,000, was paid for by Macomb’s Noon Rotary Club in celebration of its 100th anniversary.
The piece of art was created by Western Illinois University Associate Professor Duke Oursler. In a statement released on the Western Illinois University website, the artist said, “Creating public art has been one of the joys of my life,” said Oursler. “Making public art is something that brings folks together to share in our human experiences. Making a sculpture of President Lincoln, whose impact on our country is evermore relevant as we navigate these trying times, has provided me the opportunity to understand my role as an artist and the role of art and creativity in our society. I am hopeful that this sculpture will create a sense of wonder, interest and curiosity, and will be a source of pride and unity for our community.” During the unveiling, which was invite-only as well as live-streamed in order to promote social distancing, speeches were made by various members of the community who worked on the project, including Macomb Mayor Mike Inman and the artist himself, Oursler, who gave a speech to the socially distanced crowd via video call. Mayor Inman said, “When a community builds a project, the project builds that community.” In addition, the Lamoine Brass Quintet performed and a lifelike Abraham Lincoln impersonator said a few words from the point of view of the 16th President of the United States himself.
The historical background behind the statue is what community members hope will draw visitors to both the statue and to Macomb. Lincoln actually visited Macomb twice prior to becoming president in preparation for his debates with Senator Stephen Douglas. At the time around 1858, Lincoln’s famed beard was nowhere to be seen. The flowers, which make up his beard, represent something that may not have been present yet during his time in Macomb, but grew with his years of experience after having left. Macomb will now join other areas of Illinois in becoming a ‘Looking for Lincoln” community, drawing tourist and history buffs alike to the town.
The statue itself was created by a 3D printing press and is composed of concrete and steel. The flowers that adorn the face of Lincoln come from Sweet Briar Corner Market, which is located near Roseville, IL. The flowers will be maintained through an internal irrigation system. Even when the flowers do not bloom, the statue will remind those who view it of a time before Lincoln’s beard and therefore before his presidency. It will tell of a time when he was a young politician visiting Macomb to prepare for his career, his future and the future of the United States of America.