News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 9, 2011

Funds coming together for Larry Bird statue outside Hulman Center

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A donor is willing to fund a statue of Larry Bird to be placed in front of Hulman Center if one stipulation is met — a specific sculptor must do the work.

Vigo County sculptor Bill Wolfe has worked for years to promote the project, for which Wolfe created four maquettes — miniature action statues — of Bird, former Indiana State University and Boston Celtics basketball star.

But Wolfe learned Wednesday he would not be the sculptor of the full-size Bird statue.

“It knocked me for a loop,” Wolfe said Wednesday. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It was devastating after all the years working on this.”

The artist said he was notified in an email early Wednesday from Brad W. Fenton, president and founder of Larry Legend Foundation.

“It is circumstances that happen. It is not really anybody’s fault, it is just the way it happens,” Wolfe said. “The art world is a business and people in business lose all the time, so you just grab up your boots and keep going.”

Tribune-Star messages to Fenton’s cell phone and email seeking comment were not answered Wednesday.

Fenton, in the email to Wolf, states,  “As you know, I have been very optimistic about those who support this project, and that feeling remains the same. Recently, I have been notified by the ISU foundation that someone wanted to fund our project. Unfortunately, the person funding the project had a stipulation. That stipulation being that we use his artist for the statue.”

“Since day one,” Fenton continued, “you have been the person I wanted to build this statue, mainly because I know you share the same passion for Larry Bird that I do. I have seen your work, and I am in no way qualified to say whether it is exceptional or not, but I have been impressed with what I have seen,” the email states.

“I know you take pride in your work, and if I had $150,000.00 laying around I would already have a check made out to you,” Fenton wrote in the email.

Fenton started the Larry Legend Foundation in 2007 as a student organization to promote honoring Bird with a statue at the south entrance of ISU’s Hulman Center. The group has held several fundraising efforts, including the selling of

T-shirts earlier this year during a February ISU basketball game.

The goal is to raise $135,000 for a statue at least 13 feet tall, with additional money to create an annual scholarship award to an incoming ISU freshman. The foundation sought to have an unveiling by August 2012, which is 33 years after the Sycamores rose to the nation’s No. 1 ranking, with a 33-1 record, finishing as runner-up in the 1979 NCAA Final against Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans.

Gene Crume, president of the Indiana State University Foundation, was asked Wednesday about the efforts to complete a statue honoring Bird.

“The Indiana State University Foundation’s role is to support the Larry the Legend Foundation, which is an Indiana State University student-led initiative to build a statue honoring Larry Bird and create an ongoing philanthropic initiative to engage Indiana State University students,” Crume responded in an email. “To date, their fundraising efforts are still very much underway. The fundraising process is going well, but they have not yet reached their goal to fully support the project.”

However, Fenton told Wolfe the project has reached its goal for a statue.

“In closing, I want you to know that I appreciate you meeting with me and discussing this project. I appreciate you letting me borrow your replica statue to help promote the idea of Larry Legend Foundation. I also appreciate the fact that you know this project is long overdue, and at the end of the day ‘money talks,’ and we have now reached our goal of getting a statue for Larry on campus,” the email states.

“I only hope that you understand, and that we can hopefully work together sometime in the future,” Fenton wrote to Wolfe in the email.

Wolfe said he has not been told who was willing to donate funding or what artist has been chosen for the Bird statue. Wolfe said he is continuing his work on a mural for the Vigo County Courthouse.

Wolfe already has a significant art “footprint” in Terre Haute. His works include a bronze relief of baseball player Max Carey at ISU’s football stadium; a Navy V-12 sailor sculpture on ISU’s campus; a Korean War Memorial sculpture at the Vigo County Courthouse; a sculpture of Max Ehrmann at the Crossroads in downtown Terre Haute; and a small bronze water fountain of two children at a funeral home at 25th Street and Wabash Avenue.

He also has sculptures at the Carmel (Ind.) Veterans Memorial; Hoosier Patriot Memorial in Indianapolis; Wright Brothers Museum in Dayton, Ohio; the Salem/Roanoke Virginia Veterans Memorial; and statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of the Clark County, Ill., courthouse.