Donations for sculpture will be matched
CHAMPAIGN — The Ebert Foundation headed by Chaz Ebert has pledged to match up to $25,000 gifts made this month toward a life-sized bronze sculpture of Roger Ebert to be installed outside the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.
"This matching grant enables donors that act now to have their contributions have even more impact because of the match that will be made by the Ebert Foundation," said Scott Anderson, who is heading the fundraising drive.
Chaz Ebert said the foundation decided to establish the matching grant to show appreciation to the Champaign-Urbana community for choosing to honor her late husband in this manner.
The sculpture, to be built by Bloomington-Normal artist Rick Harney, will be a permanent memorial to the famed, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, who grew up in Urbana and graduated from the University of Illinois. He died on April 4, 2013.
The sculpture also will pay tribute to Ebert, Anderson said, for his determination, despite medical challenges, to press forward with life, his work, and the annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival at the Virginia Theatre and on the UI campus. It is a special event of the UI College of Media.
The sculpture project is the brainstorm of Anderson's wife, Donna, who has been the travel agent for Ebertfest.
She first had the idea after seeing a life-sized sculpture of Adlai Stevenson II, also built by Harney, at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington.
Before she could start the project, Donna Anderson suffered severe heart failure.
Nine months later, while recovering from a heart transplant at a Chicago hospital, she decided to move ahead with the Ebert sculpture project.
"Roger pressed on in the face of huge physical challenges. So she should too," her husband, a Champaign lawyer, said in a news release.
"She asks Ebert fans to help her make it a reality."
The sculpture will depict the world's most famous movie critic sitting in one of three theater seats, displaying his signature "thumbs up."
The budget for the project totals $122,500. That includes fundraising costs; dedication plaques and donor recognitions; installation, lighting and maintenance; insurance; a payment to Harney; and contingencies.
Harney has said he's not sure when he would start on the Ebert piece. Scott Anderson said it depends to some extent on the rate at which donations come in. The committee hopes, though, to have the sculpture in place before the 2014 Ebertfest in late April.
So far, counting cash gifts and in-kind contributions, one-fifth or so of the goal has been raised.
The Ebert Foundation matching grant, plus the $25,000 required for it, would result in the project being about 60 percent funded, Scott Anderson said.
Campaign organizers have established industry-like recognition levels for donors: Anyone who gives $25,000 or more would be a "studio head"; $10,000, producer; $5,000, director; $2,500, leading actor; $1,000, supporting actor; and $1 to $999, extra.
Studio-head donors will have their names included in the dedication plaque attached to the sculpture and receive a small bronze maquette of the sculpture. Their names will be included in all promotional materials.
"Producer" donors will receive a small bronze maquette of the sculpture and recognition at the dedication of the sculpture. "Director" donors will receive recognition at the dedication.
Leading- and supporting-actor donors will receive a certificate of appreciation.
Tax-deductible donations may be made directly to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, 307 W. University Ave., Champaign, IL 61820, or via http://www.Ebertsculpture.org. Donors are asked to designate their gifts for the "Ebert Sculpture."
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.