TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The yearlong celebration of Tuscaloosa’s bicentennial will culminate with the unveiling of three landmarks celebrating the city’s past, present and future on Tuscaloosa’s 200th birthday.
A sculpture depicting Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategy; timeline of monumental dates in the city’s history; and time capsule will be dedicated during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Dec. 13 at the Park at Manderson Landing.
Local artists Caleb O’Connor and Craig Wedderspoon have collaborated for two years on the sculpture and timeline, with O’Connor focusing on the sculpture and Wedderspoon on the timeline. The two elements are gifts to the citizens of Tuscaloosa from The University of Alabama, with the sculpture being entirely funded from an endowed fund established by an anonymous donor.
O’Connor’s piece features a sculpture of Minerva, who is depicted in the UA seal. The piece will stand 30 feet tall and weigh more than 9,500 pounds. O’Connor produced the model in his downtown Tuscaloosa studio and the full-scale sculpture was cast in Italy.
“I hope each viewer will have a unique experience and see the sculpture as a symbol of progress through reflection, not only of our past but present and what we can do in the future,” said O’Connor. “The base of the sculpture is reflective so people can see themselves in the piece.”
Wedderspoon led the design and production of the bicentennial timeline that will run 110 feet along Manderson Landing and lead to the Minerva sculpture. The timeline depicts the Black Warrior River with historic dates in the city’s history etched in the concrete.
“Everything came down to the river for me because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the river,” said Wedderspoon, UA professor of sculpture. “When you look back at Tuscaloosa’s history, early settlers followed Native American trails that led to this area because it’s where you could cross the river. The Black Warrior River has also played a tremendous role in transportation and the economy.”
In addition, a time capsule with selected items that represent everyday life in 2019 will be buried at Manderson Landing. The time capsule’s content represents 12 themes, which include arts and entertainment; sports and athletics; infrastructure; education; and civil rights and diversity.
“We didn’t want to create a ‘chamber of commerce’ collection of objects,” said Dr. Bill Bomar, chairman of the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Commission’s time capsule committee. “It’s going to be an honest representation that has an underlying message that the community is happy with Tuscaloosa, and while there are areas that need improvement, we’ve certainly come a long way in 200 years.”
The public is invited to attend the ceremony and reception that will follow in the UA boathouse at Manderson Landing. Free public parking will be available at the Riverside parking deck and lot, located at 385 Kirkbride Lane, and shuttles will run to and from Manderson Landing.
Note: The ceremony and reception will take place in the UA Boathouse at Manderson Landing.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.