Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Part 3: The Yulee Statue
When it looked like the restoration of Fernandina Beach’s historic train depot was about to become a reality, the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation (http://www.ameliarestoration.com/) wanted to help. To that end, Restoration Foundation leaders approved a contribution of $50,000 to the effort, half of which would go to work on the building. The remaining half, to be supplemented by private contributions, would go toward a statue honoring David Levy Yulee, the man responsible for both the railroad and the current location and appearance of Fernandina Beach. Authorization for such a statue to be located at the train depot was approved by City of Fernandina Beach Resolution 2012-163.
While Restoration Foundation members past and present had worked on many projects over the years to preserve or restore Fernandina Beach’s rich architectural heritage, this was the first time the organization had dealt with commissioning a work of art. Where to begin? The Restoration Foundation leadership charged member and local architect Jose Miranda to research and shortlist sculptors who should be considered as good prospects for the job. Miranda, assisted by Restoration Foundation member Susan Mowery, presented the board with the top candidates. After reviewing each candidate’s interest, body of work, availability and cost estimates, the board’s choice was unanimous: Susan Luery, a petite sculptress with monumental talents.
A native of Baltimore who now lives in Massachusetts, Luery attended the Maryland Institute College of Art before heading off to Carrara, Italy, where she worked with Alberto Sparapani, a master sculptor possibly best known for Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Private collectors quickly recognized her early work, which was romantic and often devoted to mythological themes. Her Promethean Radiation was presented as a wedding gift to England’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. Luery has been an active sculptor and highly sought after ever since.
Susan Luery is probably best known for monumental works commemorating historic figures. She sculpted Babe’s Dream, a 16-foot monument that stands in front of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and the Cal Ripken, Jr. monument that welcomes fans to his museum in Aberdeen, Maryland. She also sculpted an 8-foot bronze of George Washington as a 22 year-old militia officer for the national historic site at Fort Cumberland, Maryland. Entitled George Washington – Visionary, it is included in the Smithsonian Museum Inventory of American Painting and Sculpture.
Luery engages in painstaking research for her historical projects. She said that she knew nothing about baseball when she began work on the Babe Ruth project. She researched not only the Babe, but also the uniforms and equipment of the era. For the Washington project, she visited Mt. Vernon and was given permission to take measurements of Washington’s death mask. Luery enjoys historical research and is already looking into the type of clothing worn by men of David Yulee’s era.
In mid-March, Luery visited Fernandina to learn more about the town, the railroad, the man and the setting for the statue. She met with members of the Restoration Foundation as well as members of Arts and Culture Nassau, the organization responsible for approving public arts projects. It is Luery’s goal to produce a work of art that is approachable by the public and in scale with both the rail depot and Centre Street. She has already begun working up small models.
While it is very early in the design phase for the Yulee statue, it is not too early to make a contribution in support of the project, which will not involve any public funding. For more information on the project and to learn how you might become involved, contact Restoration Foundation president Adam Kaufman, [email protected].
Stay tuned for future articles highlighting progress on both the train depot restoration and the Yulee statue!
March 28, 2013 1:00 a.m.