Bob and Tom’s Excellent Adventure: Lorado Taft

Bob & Tom’s Excellent Adventures

ELMWOOD, Ill. (WMBD) — Bob Larson and Tom McIntyre are back with another of their “Amazing Adventures”. This time, they start in the birthplace of an artist who became world-famous.

Elmwood Illinois has what most small towns do not have: a large sculpture in the town square by a world-famous artist. Of course, it helps if that artist was born in Elmwood.

That artist was Lorado Taft — born in Elmwood in 1860. Taft became as well-known as any American sculptor of his time. He created complex, heroic public monuments, like this one. Called “The Pioneers”, it celebrates the men and women who first populated Illinois.

In 1928, the people of Elmwood raised $15,000 to build the base. Taft donated the statue to his birthplace.

Lorado Taft came into his own at the time of 1893, helping with the Columbian Exposition of Chicago. He promoted the hiring of women – unheard of at the time-and literally wrote the book on American Sculpture.

Educated at the University of Illinois, his sculpture of the “Alma Mater” was put on campus in 1929. It still stands as one of the most recognized and beloved monuments on the Urbana campus. There’s even a web-cam so U of I graduates can see it from anywhere in the world.

In Chicago, Taft is perhaps best known for the 126 foot-long Fountain of Time – a huge work that took a dozen years to complete – containing 100 figures marching through a lifetime.

But Lorado Taft’s largest work — five stories tall – stands 100 miles North of Peoria at Lowden State Park. “The Eternal Indian”, also called “Black Hawk” was made of poured concrete over a metal frame. The pour itself took a week.

The massive statue stands 125 feet above the Rock River. It is the largest statue of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere — the second largest in the world.

You’ll find more works by Taft in nearby Oregon, Illinois. But if nothing else, this stature alone secures Lorado Taft’s reputation.

Lorado Taft died in 1936 just a few weeks after a final visit to Elmwood, the town of his birth. Elmwood has maintained a close connection to the famous American artist, and has other works by him which can be seen. Visit Elmwood’s website at: http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=f9f128194dab4817ba36418e3ec93444

And, if you want to add the “Alma Cam” to your computer, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6hzVOwaN_4

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