As construction continues on Barney Ewell Plaza in the 100 block of Lancaster’s North Queen Street, a local committee dedicated to keeping alive the legacy of the plaza’s Olympian namesake is inviting the public to a virtual meeting this week about the bronze statue that will someday stand in the square.
Starting at 7 p.m. Thursday — what would have been the 103rd birthday of Lancaster native and J.P. McCaskey High School alumnus Henry Norwood “Barney” Ewell — the Barney Ewell Legacy Committee will use that Zoom meeting to introduce the public to a four-person panel tasked with choosing an artist to create the statue of Ewell.
“We kind of put our heads together a few months ago and tried to determine who in the community would be a good fit to take on the responsibility of selecting the artist” for the statue, says Jeremiah Miller, coordinator for the McCaskey Alumni Association and a member of the legacy committee.
Miller says the legacy committee, which also includes former Lancaster County Commissioner Ron Ford, former Lancaster Mayor Art Morris and businessman and philanthropist Ken Stoudt, will soon put out a request for proposals for a Pennsylvania artist to create the Barney Ewell statue.
Lancaster Square was renamed in 2019 for Ewell, who during his running career was the “world’s fastest human” — winning a gold and two silver medals at the 1948 Olympics, holding many records at a variety of distances, and winning 12 NCAA titles at Penn State, 11 national AAU titles and 16 gold medals in world-class outdoor meets.
The statue, expected to be dedicated in 2022, will be a photorealistic depiction of Ewell in a runner’s pose, Miller says, and will be life-sized or larger.
“Our projected budget (for the statue) is $90,000 to $120,000,” Miller says. “That’s what we’re looking to raise and we feel very confident we’ll be able to do that. We’ve already had a lot of generosity from the community and we feel really confident we’ll be able meet that goal.”
The legacy committee will commission and fund the statue.
The members of the Artist Selection Panel are:
• John Krill, a 1961 McCaskey grad and an art conservator, retired after many years working for the Winterthur Museum in Delaware and teaching in its art conservation program.
• Ceasar Westbrook, an Erie artist and art teacher who, while an athlete at McCaskey, broke Ewell’s high school long jump record.
• Robert Pfannebecker, a Lancaster attorney and art collector who was an integral part of the fight for civil rights in Lancaster in the 1960s.
• Geraldine McCritty, an artist and owner of the Pavaa Gallery in Lancaster.
The statue’s design will be approved by the legacy committee, Ewell’s family and a representative from Lancaster’s public art board, Miller says.
At Thursday’s Zoom meeting, Miller says, “we will really just introduce ourselves to the community again as the Barney Ewell Legacy Committee, introduce our artists selection panel and share some information about who Barney Ewell was and start the conversation around artist selection.”
The link to join the Zoom meeting will be posted on the McCaskey Alumni Association website, mccaskeyalumni.org, and on the organization’s Facebook page. facebook.com/McCaskeyAlumni, Miller says.
The virtual meeting is free and open to the public.
In 2018, the legacy committee put together a series of events and tributes to Ewell during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. Ewell died in 1996.
Apart from the legacy committee’s work on the statue, the city of Lancaster is collecting stories from those who knew Ewell or have been inspired by his life.
Two weeks ago, the city announced it had launched the website ewellplaza.com, to keep the public up to date on the development of Ewell Plaza and engage with the public about the future of the space.
Through the new website, the city is collecting stories about Ewell, which it will share through the website.
To share personal stories about Ewell, you can fill in the online form at ewellplaza.com/barney-ewell.
The website also contains information about the design of the plaza, about the development of other public art for the space and about how the city plans to engage the public in helping decide how Ewell Plaza will be used as a space for the community.
There’s also biographical information about Ewell, including a link to “Breaking Through: The Barney Ewell Story,” a 2018 documentary written, directed and narrated by Miller.
Barney Ewell Plaza will eventually contain other public art, and the new Lancaster Public Library building and garage.
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