The new bronze statue is being created to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader being awarded an honorary degree by Newcastle University
The unveiling of the statue will take place next year and forms part of Freedom City 2017, a city-wide programme of events celebrating the anniversary of Dr King’s visit to Newcastle University.
On 13 November 1967, Newcastle University gave Dr King an honorary degree – the only UK university to do so during his lifetime. Remarkably, he took time to come to the University to receive his award. He then gave an inspirational acceptance speech, during which he spoke of his struggle for racial justice and the challenges in overcoming war, poverty and racism.
Drawing on these themes, the Freedom City 2017 programme will aim to bring Dr King’s legacy to life through special events, talks, exhibitions, art works, and performances. The celebration will take place in Newcastle and involve schools, artists and voluntary groups from across the city, as well as academics from Newcastle University and a host of partner organisations.
The new sculpture will be installed on the Newcastle University campus, and is being created by distinguished artist Nigel Boonham. “Martin Luther King Jr is one of the most significant figures of the 20th century, so it’s a thrilling prospect to use my skill to help celebrate Dr King’s extraordinary visit to Newcastle,” Nigel said. “I hope the statue will, in some small way, continue the movement of equality for all, and I look forward very much to working in collaboration with Newcastle University to realise this project.”
Inspiring a new generation
To ensure the new statue is as faithful as possible to Dr King’s physical proportions, members of the public who have a similar build are being encouraged to volunteer as the artist’s model. They must be male and be 1.69 metres (5 feet 5 inches) to 1.8 metres (5 feet 10 inches) tall. There is no restriction on age, but they must be fit and strong.
The successful model will need to travel to Nigel Boonham’s studio in London for a half-day photoshoot, where they will wear authentic 1960s ceremonial robes similar to those worn by Dr King during his Doctor of Civil Law honorary degree ceremony.
Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation, Newcastle University, said: “On the same day that Americans mark Martin Luther King Day it seems appropriate that we announce plans for this brand new statue to remember one of the most inspiring figures of recent times.
“The Freedom City 2017 programme aims to bring Dr King’s legacy to life by inspiring a new generation to contribute towards tackling the ‘great and grave problems’ of war, poverty and racism that he talked about during his acceptance speech. The fact that this new piece of art will be located here at Newcastle University is also fitting, and will allow our staff and students to reflect on how we can contribute towards finding solutions to these challenges.”
Anyone interested in volunteering as artist’s model for the Martin Luther King statue should submit a photo of themselves and full contact details using this form on the Newcastle University website. The closing date for applications is Friday 5 February 2016.
Details of the full programme of Freedom City 2017 events will be confirmed over the coming months. To keep up to date with what’s planned, visit the Freedom City 2017 website.
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