She’s 30 feet tall, she weighs more than 9,500 pounds and she’s almost ready for her debut.
Workers have been busy preparing the site along Tuscaloosa’s riverfront for a sculpture depicting Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategy.
The Minerva sculpture, along with a timeline of key dates in Tuscaloosa’s history and a time capsule, will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Friday at the Park at Manderson Landing.
The dedication, part of Tuscaloosa’s yearlong bicentennial celebration, is free and open to the public.
“I hope each viewer will have a unique experience and see the sculpture as a symbol of progress through reflection, not only of our past but present and what we can do in the future,” said Caleb O’Connor, a local artist who created the Minerva sculpture. “The base of the sculpture is reflective so people can see themselves in the piece.”
The creation of the landmarks is meant to celebrate the city’s past, present and future on Tuscaloosa’s 200th birthday.
Caleb O’Connor and Craig Wedderspoon, who is also a local artist, have collaborated for two years on the sculpture and timeline. While O’Connor focused on the sculpture and Wedderspoon concentrated on the timeline.
The two elements are gifts to the residents of Tuscaloosa from the University of Alabama, with the sculpture being entirely funded from an endowed fund established by an anonymous donor.
Minerva is also depicted in UA’s official seal.
O’Connor produced the Minerva model in his downtown Tuscaloosa studio and the full-scale sculpture was cast in Italy.
Wedderspoon led the design and production of the bicentennial timeline, which will run 110 feet along Manderson Landing and lead to the Minerva sculpture. The timeline depicts the Black Warrior River with key dates in Tuscaloosa’s history etched in the concrete.
“Everything came down to the river for me because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the river,” said Wedderspoon, a professor of sculpture at UA. “When you look back at Tuscaloosa’s history, early settlers followed Native American trails that led to this area because it’s where you could cross the river. The Black Warrior River has also played a tremendous role in transportation and the economy.”
Friday’s ceremony will include the burial of a time capsule with items representing everyday life in 2019. Items in the time capsule represents 12 themes, which include arts and entertainment, sports and athletics, infrastructure, education; and civil rights and diversity.
“We didn’t want to create a ‘chamber of commerce’ collection of objects,” said Bill Bomar, chairman of the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Commission’s time capsule committee. “It’s going to be an honest representation that has an underlying message that the community is happy with Tuscaloosa, and while there are areas that need improvement, we’ve certainly come a long way in 200 years.”