GREENFIELD — With a slight smile and a welcoming stance, the statue encourages interaction and photographs.
Greenfield officials unveiled the “Reading with Riley” statue Saturday before a crowd of more than 100 people. The statue, a bronze representation of James Whitcomb Riley sitting on a bench in front of the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum, was planned as a dual celebration of the bicentennial of Indiana’s statehood and the 100th year since the Hoosier poet’s death.
Artist Bill Wolfe of Terre Haute used one of the iron benches that sits in front of the Riley Home as a basis for his statue, which features a seated Riley with an open book in his left hand and his right arm draped casually across the back — as if he has stepped out of his Greenfield home and sat down to read.
The unveiling Saturday included remarks from Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell, Indiana poet laureate Shari Wagoner, and a re-enactor of the subject of the statue himself, James Whitcomb Riley.
Wagoner read aloud Riley’s poem, “Indiana,” before the black tarp covering the statue was lifted by Fewell, Wolfe and Wolfe’s grandson. Riley’s poem also served as the theme of this year’s festival, a nod to the state’s 200th birthday.
Bringing the project, which cost about $42,000, to fruition was a community effort, with donations coming from the Hancock County Tourism Commission, the Hancock County Visitors Bureau, penny wars at local schools and individuals, officials said.
Anyone who made a contribution of $100 or more was invited to a special VIP reception in the backyard of the Riley home, 250 W. Main St., after the unveiling. Donors’ names will also be included on a plaque on the Riley grounds.
The monument was first sculpted out of clay by Wolfe, then cast in bronze at the Sincerus Foundry in Indianapolis.
Wolfe’s sculpture of the famous poet is similar to another he made of poet Max Ehrmann in Terre Haute, with the man seated on a park bench with his arm draped across the back, inviting visitors to have a seat.
Wolfe, a sculptor and painter, studied art at Indiana State University and has art featured across the country, according to his website. He now focuses on life-size monuments.