Famed movie critic Roger Ebert may have died five years ago this spring.

But his likeness lives on and his thumb remains raised ... all thanks to Bloomington artist Rick Harney.

Harney's life-sized sculpture of Ebert sits outside the Virginia Theater in Champaign, hometown site of the Chicago Sun-Times critic's annual film festival, Eberfest (which reels on ... this year from April 18-22).

The bronze sculpture, comprised of 36 parts, features the critic seated on a bench, with trademark thumb raised skyward.

Before there was that full-scale statue, there was the tabletop maquette version created by Harney as the reference for everything that followed.

As a gesture of gratitude for their contribution to the project ($10,000), Harney's mini-Roger was bequeathed to B-N's Beyond Normal Films group and displayed in the lobby of the Normal Theater for the past two years. 

When BNF disbanded at the end of 2017, a new home for the maquette was sought, according to Dave Hauman, founder of the Community Fund for Public Art, created last fall and located at the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation.

"My wife, Diane, and I do a large amount of traveling, and one of the things that continues to disappoint us is the near-total absence of public art compared to all kinds of other places," says Hauman.

Hence, the new fund and its goal: to encourage the expansion of public art within the service area of the IPCF, including McLean, Livingston, Logan and DeWitt counties.

Among the first fruits of that mission is facilitating the move of the Ebert maquette to its new public home: in the storefront window of downtown Bloomington attorney Frank Hoffman's law office at 401 N. Main St.

Hoffman, a longtime friend of Harney, stepped forward offering the space. 

Hauman says he hopes giving downtown passers-by a front-row seat to viewing the mini-Roger is just the beginning for the Community Fund for Public Art's crusade.

For more information on those efforts, go to www.ilprairiecf.org/community-fund-for-public-art/.

Big river rolling: Illinois Wesleyan University's Hansen Student Center will be the site at 7 p.m. Tuesday for a wide-ranging free event in which art, music, ecology and regional history are set to interface.

The occasion: The downstate premiere of the award-winning documentary, "The Colorado," with its director and co-author, Murat Eyuboglu, on hand to introduce the film and field questions after the screening.

Also on hand for discussion will be author Christa Sadler, author of the soon-to-be-published tie-in book, "The Colorado."

The film, narrated by Oscar nominee Mark Rylance, is a music-enhanced exploration of the Colorado River Basin from both social and ecological perspectives across history.

Those perspectives range from the prehistoric settlements of the region, through European exploration, modern industrial agriculture, immigration and the impact of climate change.

Turning the above experience into a symphony of images is the combined work of five contemporary composers, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Luther Adams, performed by Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, cellist Jeffrey Ziegler of The Kronos Quartet and composer-percussionist Glenn Kotche of rock band Wilco.

Turning it into an event with local ties is its connection to the faculty-student 1868 expedition to the Colorado Rocky Mountains organized and led by Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University professor John Wesley Powell, according to Marcia Thomas, collections librarian at IWU.

Powell was the self-made naturalist/explorer/Civil War vet who joined IWU's faculty in the summer of 1868 as a professor of natural science, and also designed the school's motto and seal.

The expedition, marking its 150th anniversary this year, was the second of two (the first was in 1867) in which he led a group of IWU students and one ISU student. They have been acknowledged as among the first to use field work for teaching science.

According to Thomas, "The Colorado" capture's Powell's views, in his later years as director of the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, that there was not enough available water in the West to support high-density populations and an immense agricultural empire.

Speaking of travels: "The Colorado's" next stop, post-IWU, will see it flowing into the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., no less.

For more information on the film go to www.projectcolorado.com.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com 



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