A life-size statue of Sinclair Lewis, now permanently located in front of the Sauk Centre library, was unveiled to a crowd estimated at 130 people Monday, July 1. The heavy daytime rain clouds fizzled out in time for a sunny event on the library lawn at 7 p.m.
The statue, sculpted by Nick Christensen of Broden Studios in Kimball, had been installed earlier Monday, and shrouded with a velvet drape, a giant white ribbon and a waterproof tarp.
Sara Thompson, chair of Artify Sauk Centre, which had sponsored the creation and installation of the statue, welcomed the gathering and gave a history of the process.
Thompson noted that Artify Sauk Centre has also been the moving force behind the Sauk Centre mural projects.
The statue project came about in less than a year, Thompson said.
Christensen also has bronze works on display at the White House in Washington, D.C., and at the FBI headquarters in D.C.
Acting as master of ceremonies, Thompson introduced the speakers on the short program.
Vickie Willer, city administrator, represented the mayor and outlined the city’s participation in granting approval for the statue to be placed on city property, and in helping with the sidewalk and pedestal for the statue.
Roberta Olson, vice president of the Sinclair Lewis Foundation, presented a brief comment on Lewis’s life in Sauk Centre, and the effect the publication of “Main Street” had on his hometown and the world. Lewis was born Feb. 7, 1885 at home on Third Avenue which is now Sinclair Lewis Avenue. He died in Rome in 1951, and is buried in the Sauk Centre cemetery in the Lewis family plot.
Marissa George, representing the Friends of the Library, gave excerpts of a talk the late Dave Simpkins had given about Sinclair Lewis. As a child Sinclair read all the books in the Sauk Centre library collection before he graduated from high school in 1904. In 1930 Lewis sent 80 books, including his best sellers, and books sent to him to review, autographed by the authors, to the library that he thought Sauk Centre would enjoy reading, as payment for providing him so much entertainment as he was growing up.
Pam Borgmann, director of the Sauk Centre Convention and Visitors Bureau, introduced the Lewis family members attending, Sinclair’s grand-nephews, Dick and Ken Lewis, and their wives, Patricia and Jan, all of St. Cloud.
Mark Roberg, representing the Sauk Centre History Museum, said, “We are proud to include Sinclair Lewis as part of Sauk Centre’s legacy.”
Mark Raitor, a member of Artify Sauk Centre, told the crowd, “A lot of exciting things are happening,” and included mention of the CEO program for high school students, and a fitness and obstacle challenge that is coming to Sauk Centre.
Linda Brobeck, representing the Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB), said in 2018, $640,000 in grants were made in the Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Wright counties area. That amount included the $19,500 grant to Artify Sauk Centre for the statue project.
The grant to Artify Sauk Centre was the first grant to be awarded and completed. CMAB is funded by the Legacy Amendment, which gives a small portion of the Minnesota sales tax funds to award grants to individual artists and organizations for art projects.
“We are delighted to see the impact this will have on your community,” Brobeck said.
Roger Reinardy the art director, and Mike Weisser, the project manager, who were to unveil the statue chose instead to include the younger generation, and turned the unveiling over to Hazel and Nora Thompson, and Sidney Moritz. Reinardy assisted with the process, and when unveiled a gasp went up, tears brimmed over in numerous eyes, and the crowd applauded in approval.
Many of those gathered took photos with the statue, and cake and lemonade were served on the lawn in front of the Children’s Literature Mural facing the library.