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Ebertfest 2014: Donations still needed for Roger Ebert sculpture

Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert, touches the statue of her late husband.
Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert, touches the statue of her late husband.
Jana J. Monji

It's not too late to take a selfie with Roger Ebert although this one is a bit colder, heavier and more rigid than the original. Sculptor Rick Harney's life-size bronze statue of Roger Ebert was unveiled outside the Virginia Theatre on Thursday, April 24, 2014 giving Ebertfest attendees a first look at Roger.

10154327_10203889449500386_8137356116068001742_nThe statue is currently set on a wooden base with Roger Ebert sitting on a bench with a thumbs up. You can sit with him now and you can even help pay the sculpture because the sculpture project has raised $94,500 out of the goal of $115,000. That's $20,500 still needed. The money will cover the labor, materials and other dedication costs. Chaz Ebert, the Alice and Gene Lamb Foundation and director Martin Scorsese have already made sizable donations.

Scott Anderson, who has led the campaign, is hoping that Ebertfest attendees will also make big donations with weekend and add to the 150 or so people and organizations who have already donated or pledge money for this project. Anderson's wife, Donna, was the person who came up with the idea and convinced Harney to take on the commission. Harney wasn't accepting commissions at the time, but because he was able to communicate with his autistic son through movies and through Roger Ebert's reviews, Harney gladly accepted the job and finished it in less than a year.

Roger Ebert passed away on 4 April 2013 and the fundraising campaign began in September of that same year. Andersons were determined to have the statue unveiled this year for the 16th Ebertfest. Donna Anderson has served as the travel agent for Ebertfest since its inception and got the idea when she was at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Illinois. The airport has a sculpture of Adlai Stevenson sitting on a park bench with his fee propped up.

You can donate to the Roger Ebert statue fund by visiting the Ebert Sculpture website and clicking on their donation button. That sculpture brings together the cities of Champaign and Urbana, the College of Media at the University of Illinois, the Champaign Park District, the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and the Public Art League.