Fund drive for Ebert sculpture two-thirds complete
The fund-raising campaign for a life-sized Roger Ebert sculpture in Champaign is two-thirds of the way to the finish line.
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Fans of the late film critic and Urbana native donated about $25,000 in December, which the Ebert Foundation matched with a grant. And famed movie director Martin Scorsese, whom Ebert had championed early in the filmmaker's career, gave $5,000 to the cause.
That leaves the project $37,500 shy, said campaign chairman Scott Anderson Jr., a Champaign lawyer. The 16th edition of Ebertfest opens in seven weeks.
Anderson and others involved hope the sculpture can be installed outside the Virginia Theatre before it hosts the April 23-27 festival.
"I know the moviegoers at Ebertfest and the towns of Champaign-Urbana will be thrilled if the sculpture of Roger is ready in time for the film festival," said Chaz Ebert, who'll emcee the event named after her husband, who died on April 4, 2013.
Artist Rick Harney has pretty much finished sculpting the piece from a synthetic clay that's a hybrid of powders, wax and oil. He plans to put final touches on it today at his studio in Normal and on Friday drive it to the inBronze foundry in Mount Morris for casting.
The sculpture shows one of Champaign-Urbana's favorite sons with his signature right thumb up, sitting in one of three theater-style seats. Ebertfest-goers will be able to pose with the statue.
Anderson's wife, Donna, came up with the idea for memorializing Ebert. The film festival's travel agent began to work in earnest on the project while in a Chicago hospital recovering from heart-transplant surgery.
"Roger pressed on in the face of huge physical challenges, so Donna decided she would too," Scott Anderson said. "She asks Ebert fans to help her make this honor for Roger happen."
The total budget covers fund-raising costs, dedication plaques, donor recognitions, payment to Harney and contingencies.
The original budget of $125,000 shrank by $10,000 after the city of Champaign agreed to provide the installation and light sources for the sculpture, Scott Anderson said.
Tax-deductible donations may be made to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, 307 W. University Ave., Champaign, IL 61820 or online at ebertsculpture.org.
For more information, contact Scott Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.