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First clay busts of Tampa history makers revealed

TAMPA — The sculptor charged with immortalizing Tampa's history makers introduced Thursday the first three busts that will sit along Tampa's Riverwalk.

At a news conference in Steve Dickey's downtown Tampa studio, he presented the nearly finished images of Henry B. Plant, who brought the railroad to Tampa; Clara Frye, who opened the first black hospital in Tampa; and an unnamed American Indian man who represents the area's indigenous people.

The clay sculptures, all the color of milk chocolate, will go to a Sarasota foundry that will cast them in bronze.

Dickey expects to unveil in December the completed busts, along with likenesses of pioneer cattleman Capt. James McKay, suffrage firebrand Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain and cigar magnate Vicente Martinez Ybor.

Eventually, grand sculptures of historical Tampa events will join the busts at spots along the river, said Tampa lawyer Steven Anderson, who came up with the idea and serves as chariman of the committee in charge of the project.

"I don't really anticipate this being a guy on horseback with a sword drawn; that's not quite Tampa,'' he said.

One theme might be the arrival of the first train to Tampa or a lector in a cigar factory reading to workers, Anderson said.

"It'll be a scene and a large statue,'' he said. "We have nothing comparable to this now."

Dickey, 63, receives $8,500 for each of the first six busts he created. Much of that money goes toward paying expenses at the foundry, he said.

Anderson estimates the larger sculptures that will depict historical events, the first of which he hopes will be ready in 2014 or 2015, will cost about $250,000 each. He envisions six such scenes.

Rendering the busts of the first six history makers — organizers envision about 30 in all — has presented a few difficulties, Dickey said.

He had only a profile image of Frye, so he had to guess how her full-face image would look. A newspaper sketch served as a guide for Chamberlain's sculpture. And while Spanish sketches exist depicting the early dwellers of Tampa Bay, Dickey can't quite determine how the man he's sculpting held together the knot of hair on the top of his head.

"I don't know if they ran something around their head and wrapped around it, or they twisted and used a leather strap to hold it tight.''

Anderson's committee is looking into that. If it comes up with nothing, Dickey said he will go with the leather strap.

Anderson started pitching the idea for the artwork a decade ago and has spearheaded the private fundraising effort to make it happen.

"I've had the good fortune of traveling around the world, and I'm a history buff, and in every great city there are monuments memorializing the history of that city and that country,'' he said. "I've always felt that Tampa hadn't done a good enough job for the people that brought us here.''

First clay busts of Tampa history makers revealed 08/02/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 3, 2012 12:05am]

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