A prominent artist in Henry County is working on a pair of projects to maximize the area's artistic potential. One of them is nearing completion in the coming months, and will spotlight a pivotal figure in the history of the county, and the nation.
Master sculptor, Andy Davis, owner of the Andy Davis Gallery and Studio in McDonough, is continuing to raise money for a sculpture of Henry County's namesake, Patrick Henry, to display near the McDonough Square.
"We've probably got about $30,000 to $40,000 raised in cash, and in pledges," said Davis. "The sculpture is about 60 percent complete, in clay, and looking really good."
In a county named for Patrick Henry, who gave the nation one of its most patriotic sayings, "Give me liberty, or give me death," there are only a few other recognitions referencing the Revolutionary War-era patriot. His quote exists on a plaque in front of the county's courthouse, and there also is an alternative high school bearing his name.
Davis said the $95,000 sculpture should be ready for unveiling in March, or April of 2012, if the required funding comes through.
"There's always a problem with funding," he said. "With the economy, it's been a little bit more difficult, but not much. We've got to catch up on about six to eight weeks of lost time on funding, but other than that, we're right there at it. So, once the clay sculpture is finished, we'll probably have about half the money raised at that time. Then, we'll send the sculpture to a foundry. It takes four months, after that, to get it cast in bronze. During that time, we'll continue to do fund-raising."
Davis' past works include sculptures of singer, Ray Charles, and Playboy Magazine founder, Hugh Hefner.
The Patrick Henry sculpture, upon completion, will stand nearly seven feet tall.
Davis, earlier this year, established the Patrick Henry Sculpture Board, to assist with the project. Board members include: Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, Tax Commissioner David Curry, Probate Judge Kelley Powell, McDonough Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Vincent, Stockbridge Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Gilbert, Henry County Historian Gene Morris, Architect Todd Ernst, and Davis.
Gene Morris said it is not uncommon for a city, or county, not to have a statue of the person for whom it is named. Davis' project is "long overdue" for Henry County, Morris said.
"The huge honor is when you name a county for someone," said Morris. "The statues you see in our town are for a Confederate memorial. We've always been proud of Henry County, and of Patrick Henry, but this is a way to restate our admiration for our namesake. It's a special honor that the people of Henry County are raising money to do this now."
Chairman Mathis said funding from supporters of the sculpture project is needed in order to make it a reality. "We hope this project will be a community-wide effort, that will include school-age children and up," said Mathis. "Donations in any amount are important. Most of the time it is the $25 and $50 donations that bring these projects to completion."
Mathis commended Davis for bringing a sense of history to Henry's county seat. "Andy Davis is a renowned artist, and to have one of his art pieces on The Square of McDonough, in Henry County, is truly an honor and will be a boost to the arts initiatives currently underway," she said.
"It is also a small way to honor the great patriot, for whom our county is named. Hopefully, future generations will be inspired by Patrick Henry, and continue to espouse the principles of freedom for which he fought."
Davis also is in the beginning stages of creating an art district in the city, to provide an outlet for aspiring artists, musicians and performers. "You've got hundreds of artists in this area that are working out of their garages, and upstairs bedrooms," said Davis. "This will bring them out into the public, and give them one central, public space that they can use to display their arts, and work on their skills."
Davis has set up a 501(c)(3) organization, to collect donations for the sculpture project. Contributions are 100 percent tax-deductible, he said, and checks can be sent to Henry First, 140 Henry Parkway, McDonough, Ga., 30253. Donations can be designated for the Patrick Henry Sculpture Fund.