Wanted: Sculptor for historic MN Capitol project

Nellie Stone Johnson Public domain image

The search is underway for a qualified artist to create a statue of Nellie Stone Johnson for the Minnesota Capitol.

The civil rights and labor leader, who died in 2002, will be the first black woman honored with such a memorial either inside or outside the building.

Paul Mandell, executive secretary of the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, said the sculpture will be placed in a prominent first-floor, north corridor location, just off the rotunda. Mandell said interest among sculptors should be high given the significance of the project and the Minnesotan honored.

“Right now, the only person of color we have is Chief Wabasha,” Mandell said. “Everything else is white men.”

The $100,000 project is funded through a legislative appropriation and privately-raised donations. Mandell said the sculpture is expected to be completed next year, once a sculptor is found.

The first deadline to submit qualifications is May 6. Mandell said a jury will name at least three designers in June to move to the next phase of the selection process.

“We’re looking for Minnesota sculptors that do realistic, life-size sculpture,” Mandell said. “So, we’re not looking for table-top, and we’re not looking for abstract art. We want it to look like Nellie.”

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