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Thread: Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the Mall / Washington D.C.

  1. #16


    MLK committee decides Chinese master sculptor is
    the right artist for the job

    By Mike Xiong, Staff Writer
    China Insight
    17, July, 2007

    It was a nerve breaking wracking but exciting moment for Master Lei Yixin on Feb 15th at 10:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C. where the artist committee of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation was evaluating his replica and listen to his presentation on his artistic design.

    Master Lei dressed in dark Asian styled suite, was well prepared but with possessed a certain degree of uncertainty. He was not very sure whether or not this the hearing would pass smoothly. It was a very rigid art evaluation process. Members of the artistic evaluation committee are nationally prominent artists and analysts appointed by the U.S. President. They command the power to say go yes or no go to any artistic project brought to the evaluation hearings. Any tiny imperfection will not escape their scrutinizing eyes. For this project that concerns U.S. national dignity and world influence, the standard must be second to none in the world.

    It is the fact that Master Lei’s artistic skill is already second to none and he is considered one of the nine living treasures in China in his profession. He has successfully created many famous sculptures in China and, some of them which were collected by China’s national art galleries. However, whether his style, artistic concept and design were all accepted by American evaluators still remained a question mystery.

    On the other hand, evaluators may raise questions about Lei’s mother country China. People may question whether it is a good idea to let an artist from China, whose human rights record often invites criticizes criticism from Americans, to carve out an image of Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassinated American civil rights icon. As a matter of fact, this political uncertainty weighs equally heavy, if not more, than artistic consideration.

    Dr. Ed. Jackson, the executive architect at the foundation of MLK Foundation, understood those concerns and strategically arranged the sequence of the hearing so that it would be a smooth run.

    Dr. Jackson gave an introduction speech by first reciting a phrase from Martin Luther King, Jr. "If we are to have peace on Earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.

    Photo provided by Lei Yixin

    Master Lei (center), Dr. Jackson and interpreter at the evaluation hearing

    Our loyalties must transcend race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. "

    By using the quotation, Dr. Jackson delivered a very clear message to the audience. Although the sculptor is neither a black nor an American, as long as we are working for a project that will convey a common human concept that should ‘transcend" race and nation, the artist’s race and nationality must not be a concern. On the contrary, commissioning this task to master Lei will exactly embody the aspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Then Dr. Jackson reported the long and difficult experience of finding a the right artist to do the central piece of the MLK memorial park. They first cast their sights on Italy which is original place of contemporary and modern art of sculpture. Although many artists can work well ion limestone pretty well, few have experience on in granite. Coincidentally, just before the committee led by Dr. Jackson would have to make a decision with from less desirable options, the Minnesota Rocks! Symposium was held in June of 2006 and the information was put on internet. Dr. Jackson and other two members instantly traveled to Minnesotan in such a rushed manner that they did not have time to verify the directions to the site in St. Paul. At the airport, they had to call the Art Institute to find their way to the site of the rock symposium exhibition. They gazed at master Lei’s nearly complete sculpture "Contemplation" and imagined thought with excitement that they had found their artist was here. Dr. Jackson remembered that the appearance of master Lei (Chinese last name meaning "thunder") was like a "thunder rod" " for him to find the artist he had long been looking for. What a happy "Eueka"!

    Followed Following by Dr. Jackson’s introduction, was master Lei’s presentation on his artistic design for "the mountain of despair" and "the stone of hope" through an interpreter. When it came to the final vote, every one of the evaluation members voted to accept master Lei’s art design. Congratulations, hags hugs and kisses overwhelmed him as his interpreter explained "everyone believes that your artistic work is impeccable and your presentation very convincing. It is really worth congratulations and celebration."

    A public news conference was hold after the evaluation to announce the formal approval of master Lei’s art design and commission him to complete the project by 2008. Master Lei was then interviewed by many news media such as Washington Post, Reuters, CBS, NBC and VOA. Those media published the news that the MLK Foundation had formally appointed Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin as the artist for the center pieces of MLK Memorial Park, that this park will be established in D.C.’ s national mall between Lincoln Memorial Hall and Thomas Jefferson Memorial Hall.

    Although published articles from worldwide major news media all briefly mentioned the project and master Lei, not one give any description about master Lei’s artistic design.

    What did master Lei say about his artistic design that convinced every picky member of the evaluation committee?

    There is no Chinese script about master Master Lei’s presentation at hand. So I, the only thing to do was called master Master Lei and had a phone interview about his presentation.

    Mike Xiong: What did you tell the evaluation committee about your design? Could you talk about the center piece of this three pieces sculpture, the Stone of Hope?

    Master Lei Yixin: I really spent quite a lot of time to read and study Martin Luther King, Jr.’s material the MLK Foundation sent to me. First of all, I believe that King is a person who had strong determination to change the society and gain equal rights for black Americans. So his figure must be strong, firm and has some inspiration to viewer. On his face, I put frown on to express his discontent with the reality but at the same time I made his eyes bright and forward looking to deliver the hope and confidence.

    Mike Xiong: What kind of artistic method have you adopted?

    Lei: I used the realistic approach to for the head and upper part of King’s figure. Very detailed expression is used to his face, arms, hands and jacket. The degree of details starts to decrease below his jacket with his pants gradually merging into the stone. This design creates a feeling as if Martin Luther King, Jr. is emerging out of a piece of stone. This stone is the hope for equal rights. In order to protrude the central figure of Martin Luther King, Jr., I purposely make a rough background with traces of chopping and chiseling.

    Mike Xiong: Looking at the photos from your sample, I do feel that it is what you want to convey to viewers. How about the Mountains of Despair?

    Lei: I have studies studied many different mountains in Europe, China and America. The shapes of cracking in the mountain are a combination of many mountains from different continents. I made the surface of the mountain very rough with sharp edges and spikes to give people a feeling as if it will hurt you when you touch it. Because this is a Mountain of Despair, I would like to express a feeling of hardship and hopeless. This will also help to support the theme for the stone of hope represented by Martin Luther King, Jr.

    On the other hand, since the mountains of despair are doomed to collapse, I have created some deep fissures and cracks. They look like natural erosion and imply the desperate situation of discriminated people will eventually replaced by confidence and hope.

    Mike Xiong: Could you talk a little about the deployment of the three pieces of sculpture?

    Lei: The three pieces of rocks are in an inverse tri angle with the stone of hope displayed at the center top and the mountains of despair at each side. There will be three flat sides on the stone of hope: two side panels and one back panel. A total 16 selected quotations and public speeches such as "I have a dream" will be engraved on them and other two panels on the mountains of despair.

    Visitors will be channeled to the center hall formed by the three pieces of sculptures after viewing the outside works. They will be able to access the center hall to read those quotations through one back and two side channels created by this inverse tri angle design.

    That is the synopsis of master Lei’s presentation. The artistic design that has been fully materialized with his sample created with unmatched sculpture skills completely convinced the picky committee members. They rarely approve any artistic project without raising some questions. Facing with master Lei’s impeccable model sculpture, they are more than happy to approve it.

    Before the evaluation hearing, Dr. Jackson and another officer traveled to Changsha in early February. Accompanied by Master Lei, they visited the site where granite stone will be produced. Then they accompanied Master Lei and his wife back to the United States. Dr. Jackson knows that to get a deeper understanding of Martin Luther King, Jr and his course is not an easy task for a person from totally different culture. So he arranged a sequence of site tours for Master Lei to Memphis and Atlanta where Martin Luther King, Jr, . worked, studied, made speeches and was assassinated and buried. The visits to all those locations such as motel, school, research center, museum and cemetery, gave Master Lei a direct impression on how the civil rights leader used to work and live. The visits also enriched Master Lei’s understanding and admiration to this American civil rights icon that he is going to carve. This pre pre-evaluation warm up tour nevertheless helped Master Lei’s successful presentation. Master Lei talked to journalists that he first knew learned about Martin Luther King Jr. when he was only ten years old. He never imagined that he would have the opportunity and honor to create his sculpture. As he knows more about Martin Luther King, Jr. he felt a greater honor and heavier responsibilities.

    The physical side of this project is large too. The three pieces of this project will use more than 1,000 tons of granite. In order to transport the stone from China to America, Master Lei decided to take a divided -and and-conquer strategy. Teamed with the third party who will take care of the shipping part of this project, Master Lei will divide the stone into 100 pieces, 10 tons each for standard container to pack. Once the separated pieces of stone arrive in America, the team let by Master Lei will assemble them and seal them as three whole pieces of rock.

    The center piece of the project is the Stone of Hope. It is 10 meter33 feet tall, 8 26.4 meter feet wide at base and 3 9.9 meter feet wide at the top. Three sides of this sculpture (two sides and a back) will be engraved with selected speeches.


    Here Master Lei’s general project schedule:

    April 2007 – April 2008 Work on real stone based on the approved sample.

    May 2008 Final touch and complete completion of the project in China

    June 2008 Ship the completed pieces to the United States

    August- September 2008 Finish assemble assembly and ready prepare for opening ceremony

    It will be the decision of the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation to decide which day to formally open to public. The whole sculpture project is funded solely by the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation. The foundation has set up an object to raise US$100 millions to fund its operation. By As of the end of March, about US$$80 millions have has been raised. As it is such as a highly publicized project, large American corporations are main donors. The US$20 millions gap will be filled in short time.

    Copyright © 2007 China Insight, Inc. All Rights Reserved


    Emphasis Added - Z

  2. #17


    King family draws fees from memorial project
    Scholar: Civil rights leader would have been 'scandalized' by payments

    updated 3:20 p.m. ET, Fri., April 17, 2009
    - The family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has charged the foundation building a monument to the civil rights leader on the National Mall about $800,000 for the use of his words and image — an arrangement one leading scholar says King would have found offensive.

    The memorial — including a 28-foot sculpture depicting King emerging from a chunk of granite — is being paid for almost entirely with private money in a fundraising campaign led by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. It will be turned over to the National Park Service once it is complete.

    The foundation has been paying the King family for the use of his words and image in its fundraising materials. The family has not charged for the use of King's likeness in the monument itself.

    "I don't think the Jefferson family, the Lincoln family ... I don't think any other group of family ancestors has been paid a licensing fee for a memorial in Washington," said Cambridge University historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of King. "One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny."

    King would have been "absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of his children," Garrow said.

    According to financial documents reviewed by The Associated Press, the foundation paid $761,160 in 2007 to Intellectual Properties Management Inc., an entity run by King's family. Documents also show a "management" fee of $71,700 was paid to the family estate in 2003.

    Family defends fees

    In a statement to the AP, Intellectual Properties Management said proceeds from the licensing agreement go to the King Center in Atlanta, where King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are entombed. The statement said the arrangement was made out of concern that fundraising for the monument would undercut donations to the King Center.

    "Many individuals believe all `King' fundraising initiatives are interrelated and don't donate to the King Center, thinking they have already supported it by donating to the memorial," the statement said.

    King's son Dexter serves as the center's chairman, and his cousin Isaac Farris Jr. is president and chief operating officer. King's two other surviving children, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, are lifetime members of the board of directors.

    A review of the King's Center financial documents shows that public support for the nonprofit organization did decline each year from 2004 to 2006, while fundraising for the Washington memorial was under way. The center has filed an extension for its 2007 tax return.

    The monument will be on the banks of the Tidal Basin, between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and would be the first major tribute to the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner outside Atlanta.

    For years, King's family has fiercely protected his legacy, suing for a share of the proceeds from the use of his words and images in merchandise and publications. In the 1990s, the family reached settlements with USA Today and CBS over their use of King's "I Have a Dream" speech without permission. A federal appeals court ruled in 1999 during the CBS case that the speech was not in the public domain.

    But historians and the National Park Service said they are not aware of any other case in which builders of a national monument had to license the image of their subject.

    National Park Service spokesman Bill Line said licensing fees are "unfamiliar territory" for a memorial that will eventually be turned over to the government. The Park Service was unaware of the fees but plans to discuss their potential implications, he said.

    Construction could begin this year

    Harry Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, said that the fees were not a burden and that the foundation has a good relationship with the King family.

    "We just want to build the memorial," said Johnson, a Houston lawyer. "The memorial we are building will be the people's memorial and will belong to the people of the United States."

    The foundation hopes to begin building the $120 million memorial this year. It has raised $104 million of that so far, including $10 million from Congress. It has tapped charitable foundations, Fortune 500 companies and individuals, sending letters to more than 1 million potential donors.

    The intellectual property issue first surfaced in 2001, when the King family's efforts to seek a licensing agreement briefly stalled fundraising.

    Johnson said the memorial's central sculpture does not fall within the family's intellectual property rights, and nearly all the King quotations being incorporated into the design are in the public domain, which means no licensing fees need to be paid.

    The foundation did not pay any fees to the King family in 2008, but it could face more licensing fees in the future if it uses certain words or images in its activities, Johnson said.

    Deborah Hayes, a spokeswoman for the Pew Charitable Trusts, which gave $1 million to the project in 2007, said the group was not aware of the licensing arrangement but would look into it.

    "We are proud to support the monument, but we have no knowledge of any such relationship," she said.

    Charon Darris, a New York banker and alumnus of Morehouse College, King's alma mater, said he raised about $1,000 for the memorial project with friends and did not have a problem with the fees.

    "I don't think that's an unreasonable amount," he said. "Ultimately, the kids lost their father, the wife lost her husband."

  3. #18
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown

    Default MLK Memorial Dedication

    I just watched the dedication of the MLK Memorial on CNN. Afterwards CNN broadcast MLK's I Have a Dream speech from August 1963, an amazing piece of oratory with a message that cuts to the heart (usually only clips and "highlights" are shown due to copyright issues, but today, for the first time in many years, the full speech was broadcast.)

    Hearing King again made me hope that his great speech was being watched down at Zuccotti Park. In particular, to keep focused and not get distracted by momentary victories or setbacks, everyone should hear and heed this:

    "... But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

    We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."

    And this section, which really resonates today:

    "In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note ... But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy."

  4. #19
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    ^ Hallelujah.

    Not one hollow word or sentiment.

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