Donors sought to honor Ebert with statue outside Virginia

Donors sought to honor Ebert with statue outside Virginia

CHAMPAIGN — Several years ago, while passing through the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Donna Anderson noticed in the lobby a life-sized statue of native son Adlai Stevenson II.

The bronze sculpture of the former Illinois governor and presidential candidate showed him sitting on a park bench, his feet propped up on a suitcase.

Eureka!

Anderson, a travel agent for the annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival in Champaign, immediately thought a similar sculpture of Ebert should be commissioned to be placed in front of the Virginia Theatre, where the annual festival has taken place since 1999.

She figured the bronze version of the world's most famous movie critic would sit on a theater seat, showing his signature "thumbs up."

Several years and a heart transplant later, Donna Anderson and her husband, Scott, a Champaign lawyer, are scheduled to announce today a campaign to raise money for the commemorative sculpture of Ebert, who died on April 4.

The couple estimates the total cost at $122,500. That figure covers marketing and publicity, installation, maintenance, insurance and the fundraising campaign website, http://www.Ebertsculpture.org.

Like many C-U folks, the Andersons believe Ebert deserves commemoration.

"He reached back to the community of his birth, where he went to high school and where he was trained at the university. That's phenomenal," Scott Anderson said.

Ebert and Ebertfest, a special event of the University of Illinois College of Media, Ebert's alma mater, also have put the twin cities on the map and created a new cultural vibe here.

"Every year, Ebertfest brings here directors, producers, actors and others from the film industry from all over the world. It's given us experiences most of us would otherwise never have," Scott Anderson said.

So the couple took their Ebert sculpture idea to the College of Media, the city of Champaign and Champaign Park District.

"People have been enthusiastic," Scott Anderson said.

Also coming on board were David Wilcoxen and Eric Robeson of the Public Art League, which has already brought a number of public-art sculptures here.

The Public Art League will manage the Ebert sculpture project and, with the city, its installation, planned for the 2014 Ebertfest, from April 23 to 27.

Wilcoxen and Robeson also serve on the Ebert Sculpture Project Committee. Other members are Mary Susan Britt, associate director of Ebertfest; Betsy Hendricks, owner of Hendrick House in Urbana and a longtime Ebert friend; Bobbie Herakovich, director of the Champaign Park District; Carol Scharlau, an Ebert friend who attended prom with him; Joan Dixon, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois; and Carl Webber, an Urbana attorney whose family was instrumental in bringing the monumental John David Mooney sculpture and mini-park to outside Urbana city hall.

Ebert's wife, Chaz, is involved as well.

"We keep her apprised by email of what we're doing as we do it," Scott Anderson said.

Though Donna Anderson initially had the idea years ago, she had heart disease and eventually required a heart transplant. That put her plans on hold.

She finally had the surgery on Sept. 18, 2012, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. While recuperating, she thought, "I'm going to get this done."

"The ground work has been laid. But we need you to participate in order to bring this vision to reality," reads the Ebertsculpture.org website.

The committee seeks gifts of any amount to make the memorial a reality. The Community Foundation of East Central Illinois will handle online donations via http://www.Ebertsculpture.org.

People who want to mail checks should make them out to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, with "Ebert sculpture" designated in the memo line, and send them to Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, 307 W. University Ave., Champaign, IL 61820.

Money raised in excess of what's needed for the sculpture and related costs will be given to the Roger Ebert Film Center at the UI, Ebertfest and the Virginia Theatre, in proportions determined by Chaz Ebert.

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