New art sculpture installed in garden in Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
The “We Shall Defend” statue, weighing more than 6,000 pounds, is the centerpiece of the recently opened sculpture garden at 5374 W. Lawrence Ave. in Jefferson Park.
The statue was created by Vietnam War veteran Dr. Charles Smith and it pays tribute to Black Americans who lost their lives in service to their country. It also serves as a memorial to those who were killed while fighting for justice and equality in the Civil Rights Movement.
The man depicted in the statue holds “the flag of the promise of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream,” according to Smith.
The statue was transported from Smith’s work site in Louisiana to the Chicago Art Center’s garden, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sunday, June 11.
An exhibit featuring the works of Smith is on display at the National Veterans Art Museum, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., which in late 2024 is scheduled to relocate to 5411 W. Higgins Ave., a former podiatry office located behind the garden.
The 84-year-old Smith attended the ceremony along with veterans art museum chairman Lionel Rabb, museum executive director Giselle Futrell, Ed Paschke Art Center co-founder Vesna Stelcer, Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th), state Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19) and state Senator Robert Martwick (D-10).
Another piece of artwork in the garden pays tribute to the people of Ukraine, featuring the blue and yellow colors of their country’s flag and red for those killed during the Russian invasion.
The garden, which cost more than $50,000, is located on a parcel across from Jefferson Memorial Park, 4822 N. Long Ave. Longterm plans call for the Chicago Art Center, which would include local museums, to be housed in a new structure on the site as part of the “North Side Cultural District.”
“This is about the essential mission of bringing publicly accessible art to our community. We are so appreciative of the overwhelming support we have received since first opening the Ed Paschke Art Center (at 5415 W. Higgins Ave.) in 2014, and are incredibly excited to be sharing Dr. Smith’s Art with our community, the city of Chicago and the world,” Rabb said.