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Nationally noted sculptor pledges piece to Largo memorial

A work honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is planned for Largo Central Park.

By TERRI BRYCE REEVES, Times Correspondent
Published January 31, 2008


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A nationally renowned artist who specializes in historical African-American sculptures has offered to create a bronze relief of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for a memorial plaza in Largo Central Park.

Sculptor Ed Dwight of Denver said he will also help the project get off the ground by connecting Largo City Commissioner Rodney Woods with lucrative funding sources.

"I have a soft spot for people like Rodney who have dreams to honor Dr. King," Dwight said. "I will point him in the right direction and we'll create something people will admire for the next couple hundred years."

Dwight's assistance comes as a relief for Woods, who has been working on the memorial project for more than five years. So far, he's raised $320 and the city has promised to chip in $15,000 in seed money.

"He is nationally known and would give credence and visibility to the project," Woods said. "Right now, everything is in the planning stages, but I'm hoping to have something solid in the next few months."

Dwight has created more than 80 works of public art, including his current project, a $3-million King memorial in Denver. He's now 74, but as a young man, he trained to be America's first black astronaut.

In 1974, he switched careers after creating a sculpture of George Brown, Colorado's first black lieutenant governor.

Dwight said Brown told him he should use his talent to tell the world about the many accomplishments of black Americans.

Today, his public art appears in the Smithsonian Institution as well as cities across the nation, including Columbia, S.C., Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig told Woods about Dwight after an employee saw him on a national news program. After contacting the sculptor by phone, Woods said he is "more excited than ever."

In addition to the funding sources, Woods hopes to find some volunteer grant writers and local service organizations to help.

He also wants to increase the project's goal from $60,000 to $75,000 to cover any unforeseen expenses.

"If we don't need it, the remainder of funds would go toward a scholarship program," Woods said.

Woods is also planning an August fundraiser. He has written Gov. Charlie Crist asking him to attend and said he would also like to invite former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy.

The city agreed to provide $15,000 for the memorial plaza with the agreement that the bulk of the money would come from private sources.

Woods wants to make it clearhis fundraising efforts are not done on behalf of the city or his office, but he hopes the future plaza will have a profound effect on Largo and the rest of the county.

"As far as I know, this is the first and only monument honoring Dr. King in Pinellas," he said.

"It's something I hope will unite my community."

[Last modified January 30, 2008, 21:01:05]


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