Plans underway for statue of poet Riley in Greenfield

  • Comments
  • Print

Officials with the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum are preparing to launch a fundraising effort for a statue of one of Indiana's most famous poets.

Museum officials estimate the statue, which they hope to unveil as part of Indiana's bicentennial celebration in 2016 and in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Riley's death, will cost $40,000 to $45,000, the Daily Reporter of Greenfield reported.

Riley was born Oct. 7, 1849, in Greenfield and lived in Indianapolis most of his life. He was world famous in his time, and in many Indiana schools, pupils had to routinely memorize and recite his poems. Riley used his experiences growing up in Greenfield and Midwestern dialect to breathe life into poems such as "When the Frost Is on the Punkin."

The first rendering of the statue's design, unveiled last weekend, features a life-sized bronze Riley seated on a bench, where visitors will be invited to sit. Artist Bill Wolfe of Terre Haute has been recruited to design and create the sculpture.

Historian and Riley home hostess Brigette Jones said organizers plan to apply for the project to be recognized by the state as a bicentennial legacy project. The Indiana Bicentennial Commission has been endorsing projects and programs that promote cultural inclusiveness, create a legacy for the future and celebrate Indiana's history.

The new Riley statue will create a lasting legacy and celebrate Riley's ties to Hancock County, Jones said. It also will engage tourists and residents and draw attention to the Riley home, she said.

"Riley was the Hoosier poet. He wasn't the Greenfield poet," Jones said.

Though there's already a statue of Riley on the north side of the Hancock County Courthouse, the planned statue offers a different view of Riley. The courthouse statue, which will be 100 in 2018, depicts Riley as scholarly and older. The proposed statue would depict a more youthful representation of the poet.

Joanie Fitzwater, city planning director, looks to the statue as a means to kindle children's interest in Riley. She envisions visitors to the poet's boyhood home posing with his likeness and snapping pictures.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.