AAP staff report
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial was dedicated this month on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The memorial site is described as invoking the memory and spiritual presence of MLK with a sense of place of the Civil Rights movement. A path of water, stone and landscape demonstrates the relevance and timelessness with passages from his sermons and speeches and all leading to his sculpture in the “Stone of Hope”.
Selected from more than 2,000 concepts from more than 52 countries, Master Lei Yixin was selected to create the MLK sculpture work. He is also known for creating the 10,600 pound permanent stone sculpture “Meditation” at Phalen Park in 2006.
Public Art Saint Paul president Christine Podas-Larson spoke at the re-dedication of the sculpture following vandalism repairs in 2008, noting that Lei created the work while attending the 2006 Minnesota Rocks! International Stone Carving Symposium at St. Paul College. Lei created the grand stone sculpture “Meditation” that is now installed at Phalen Lake Park. She said that Lei’s expertise working with granite is renowned and that is why he was selected to create a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Master Lei returned to St. Paul in July 2010 to attend the College of Visual Arts special exhibition “Harmonious Hunan in Painting, Calligraphy and Photography.” He was one of several artists from Saint Paul’s Sister City, Changsha, in Hunan Province, China.
Lei told guests from CVA, Public Art Saint Paul and the US-China Peoples Friendship Association of Minnesota the story of a hot July 2006 day when was awaken from a lunchtime nap on the St. Paul College lawn after working all morning at the carving conference.
Officials from the MLK Memorial Committee had come to St. Paul to talk to Lei about putting together an idea for the MLK sculpture. After researching the life of Dr. King, Lei he was found the inspiration to produce a concept.
Lei said that he was moved by the eyes of MLK. In his eyes he could see a warrior – but a warrior for peace – and though the struggle was for Civil Rights in America in the 1960s, his message resonates internationally to all people who face racism.
Lei built the sculpture in pieces and it was shipped to Washington to be placed on its pedestal. He traveled to Washington to oversee the instillation to be ready by the first ceremony date of September 6, 2011. It was postponed by a hurricane until late October.
Lei is famous in China for sculptors of other bigger than life figures. He created a work of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek talking together. It was inspired by the story that the two had a personal meeting that led to the creation of the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Another statue of a legendary U.S. Army Air Corp General Claire Lee Chennault, who led the famed “Flying Tigers” against the Imperial Japanese prior to the U.S. entry into World War II. Chennault and the Flying Tigers are heroes to the Chinese – and especially to the people of Hunan where the statue was installed.
Find out more about the MLK Memorial at www.mlkmemorial.org.