LINCOLN, NE: April 11, 2019 — The Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Selection Committee is pleased to announce renowned midwestern sculptor Littleton Alston has been commissioned to create a bronze statue of Willa Cather for installation in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Alston, whose sculpture studio is in Omaha, Nebraska, is also Associate Professor of Sculpture at Creighton University in Omaha. He has exhibited widely and has completed numerous public sculptures throughout Nebraska and the Midwest.
The sculpture commission comes as a result of the Nebraska Legislature’s passage of LB 807 in 2018, which calls for statues of Willa Cather and Ponca Chief Standing Bear to replace Nebraska’s current statues of Julius Sterling Morton and William Jennings Bryan. Morton and Bryan have represented the state for over 80 years and will be rehomed in Nebraska. Cather will join only six other women who are currently represented in Statuary Hall.
Cather wrote that art is “a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself—life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” It is Littleton Alston’s intention to capture that essence of Cather in sculptural form, as well as her keen intellect and sensitivity. Alston was particularly struck by photos of Cather, noting “the twinkle in her eyes, and the sense that she was a vividly intelligent individual. I aim to capture her standing, as if surrounded by nature, at home in the Nebraska prairie.”
Alston was selected from artists who submitted proposals to the Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Selection Committee through a process facilitated by the Nebraska Arts Council. Executive Director Suzanne Wise stated “Over seventy highly qualified artists submitted their credentials for consideration. While the four finalists were all capable of executing the piece, the decision was based on which artist displayed the best understanding of who Cather was as a person. So it is not surprising, and very fitting, that a Nebraskan was selected to undertake the commission.”
The total budget for the project is estimated at $150,000 and is to include all costs for the creation of sculpture and its base and installation in the U.S. Capitol. Since no state funds are allocated to the project, a cash fund was also created which will be administered by History Nebraska to accept private donations.
Laurie Smith Camp, Senior U.S. District Judge, has provided a generous donation for the commission of the sculpture and its installation at the U.S. Capitol. She remarked, “As a life-long Nebraskan, I’m extraordinarily grateful to our state senators for their decision to recognize two courageous individuals, Ponca Chief Standing Bear and Willa Cather, who continue to inspire and influence an ever-growing number of people worldwide. I offered my support for Willa Cather’s statue because reading her novels and stories in the late 1990s changed the course of my life. The opportunity to support a work of art in Cather’s likeness, which will stand in our national Capitol for generations to come, was something I could not pass up, and the chance to participate in this moment was too sweet to lose.”
The Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Selection Committee will be updating the public throughout the year on this process, its final creation, and ceremonies. Organizations and private citizens will also be asked to consider possible locations in Nebraska for the return of J. Sterling Morton, whom Willa Cather will replace, as well as ways the public or corporations might engage and contribute to this exciting project.