By Johnny Jackson
A year ago, sculptor Andy Davis, of McDonough, was pleased by his creation - a larger-than-life clay sculpture of the legendary musician Ray Charles.
His creation is now the focal point of the four-acre Ray Charles Plaza formally unveiled this month in Charles' birthplace of Albany, Ga.
The $2.2 million Ray Charles Plaza, located on Front Street along the banks of the Flint River, is partly the result of the city's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST V). It is part a multi-million dollar Riverfront Revitalization Project.
The project's design team included the engineer-design firm of Jordan, Jones & Goulding of Atlanta; contractor, JHC Corporation of Peachtree City, Ga., and financial consultant, Simon Foster of CMS management services of Atlanta.
"This sculpture's been in my head for two years," Davis said." [And] it appeared exactly the way I'd imagined it."
The broad engaging smile, the dark glasses, the way Ray Charles leans off his piano stool, are all there in nearly a ton of bronze metal.
Davis, has created 10 life-sized sculptures since he began his full-time work as a sculptor in late 1999. He was inspired to do his Charles piece five years ago after reading the book "Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story," co-written by Charles and David Ritz.
Davis began working on the sculptor in August 2006, and spent six months carving and crafting it before it was made it into a cast mold and bronzed.
"Every bit of it was a pleasure," said Davis. "It was hard work, of course. But I enjoyed doing it."
Davis said the sculpture is his desire to pay tribute to a world renown entertainer. He added, he is grateful for the help of Thomas Chatmon of Albany Tomorrow, Inc., a non-profit redevelopment and revitalization organization in Albany, who helped to make his dream a reality. Albany Tomorrow covered expenses spent by Davis in creating the sculpture.
"We see it as a timely tribute to an iconic figure that once called Albany home," Chatmon said in an earlier interview with the Henry Daily Herald.
Chatmon also brought the Norcross-based landscape architectural firm of Jordan, Jones & Goulding, Inc., on board to help in the plaza's construction.
Some Henry County residents can lay claim to some of Davis' inspiration. He allowed the public to sit in his small studio on the McDonough Square while he worked.
Davis, however, drew his main inspiration from a small television set that replayed video clips from a past concert featuring Ray Charles in Israel.
"'You know the night time, darling, is the right time to be ...'," Davis sang, then. "You cannot sculpt Ray without his music. That's my favorite song.
"I think everybody did a great job," Davis added. "It's having quite a draw, and I'm very pleased with the end result."