StudioEIS, the Brooklyn-based, family-run sculpture and design studio that has specialized in historical sculptures for more than four decades, has unveiled its latest creation: a bronze sculpture of the likeness of President John F. Kennedy. Commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and underwritten by Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in honor of its namesake, the sculpture is a part of the yearlong 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the nation’s performing arts center. The 81-inch, 660-pound sculpture will be located outdoors in the lower gardens of the REACH campus and be accessible to all visitors at the Kennedy Center complex.
“President Kennedy’s immense vitality and dedication to the arts have inspired the Kennedy Center’s programs since it opened 50 years ago as a living memorial to the youthful President,” said David M. Rubenstein. “What better way to embody those values than with a naturalistic sculpture of this remarkable leader, reminding us all of his forceful presence, which helped reshape our world? The REACH’s pavilions and landscape open up the Kennedy Center to new audiences and new purposes. We hope all visitors will come to see the new sculpture and consider how his legacy lives on today, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this national center for the arts.”
StudioEIS is perhaps best known for capturing the likeness of important historical figures such as Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln on the steps of the New-York Historical Society in New York City, and the 42 bronze sculptures of the signers of the U.S. Constitution at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The Studio’s team acts as historical detectives to accurately evoke these luminaries of the past, capturing their persona through the investigation of archival material, such as measurements of personal articles of clothing, anecdotal and historical descriptions, and close study of all photographic records.
This project presented a different challenge: Kennedy was a mass-media friendly president, extensively photographed and filmed, creating a strong “popular memory” in our collective minds. This perception created challenges for the sculptors, who were charged with finding just the right representation to sensitively portray the beloved and still-mourned young president.
“Our personal and political lives have never been more entwined than they are right now than in this area of public sculpting, which has always been my personal passione d’amore,” said Ivan Schwartz, co-founder of StudioEIS. “Although it tested our skills, there was deep satisfaction in creating this new Kennedy sculpture.”
Working closely with the Kennedy Center to make critical artistic decisions, StudioEIS wanted to evoke an image of President Kennedy that is full of energy and very approachable. The smiling, larger-than-life-sized Kennedy sculpture strides forward in a pose that will engage all visitors to the Kennedy Center campus. The extraordinary level of detail in the work even captures the oft-documented image of Kennedy fidgeting with his coat buttons.
After finalizing the initial design of the figure, the complex and labor-intensive process of creating a bronze sculpture began. StudioEIS sculptors created the prototype, hand-sculpting the original piece in clay for several months in the Brooklyn studio, which was then used to create a hollow wax mold. At the UAP Foundry in upstate New York, molten bronze filled the mold and solidified inside as it cooled, then the mold was broken away to reveal the metal sculpture. Hand-finishing, cleaning, and patination were the final stages of a lengthy process that took a year to complete.
“As the construction of the REACH unfolded a few years ago, we kept returning to President Kennedy as inspiration for the ethos of the spaces as well as the names for those spaces. The beautiful grounds of the REACH seemed to beg for an outdoor statue and we never gave up on our dream of erecting one of our namesake,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “It was David Rubenstein’s commitment to amplifying our role as a living presidential memorial and his great generosity that made this possible, as well as the talented team at StudioEIS who have brought this to life.”
Since 1976, StudioEIS has combined its love for American history and its extraordinary sculpting skills to create an astonishing body of work that tells a 400-year story of American history. Co-founded by brothers Ivan and Elliot Schwartz, the Brooklyn-based team includes sculptors, costume experts, historians, foundry partners, and other specialists. Notable commissions include work created for the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC; the Maryland State House, Annapolis, MD; the Virginia Women’s Monument, Richmond, VA; the National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA; George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Mount Vernon, VA; Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville, VA; the Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, VA; the New-York Historical Society, New York, NY; and the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA. For more information, visit studioeis.com.
About the Kennedy Center
Opened 50 years ago in 1971, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is America’s living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, attracting millions of visitors each year to more than 2,000 performances, events, and exhibits. With its artistic affiliates, the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, the Center is one of the nation’s busiest performing arts centers dedicated to providing world-class art, powerful education, and outstanding memorial experiences to the broadest possible constituency. Across all its offerings, the Kennedy Center is committed to increasing accessible, inclusive opportunities for all people to participate in, and learn through the arts, including more than 400 free performances each year and a variety of Specially Priced Ticket programs for students, seniors, persons with disabilities, and others. On September 7, 2019, the Kennedy Center inaugurated the REACH, its first-ever major expansion. Designed by Steven Holl Associates, the REACH provides visitors with new opportunities to interact and engage with the Center as the nation’s premier nexus of arts, learning, and culture. To learn more about the Kennedy Center, please visit www.kennedy-center.org.
To learn more about the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Programming, click HERE.
(Source: Kennedy Center press release)