Creating a Monument to Norman Lear

To honor Norman Lear for his impact on American television and culture, Academy of Art University is creating the first life-size, street-level monument of the TV icon in the United States.

If you don’t know Norman Lear by name, you’ll definitely recognize some of the shows he has produced. He’s won over the hearts of millions of viewers with shows such as The Jeffersons, All in the Family, and One Day at a Time.

The Project of a Lifetime

Peter Schifrin, a sculpture instructor in the Academy’s School of Fine Art and lead artist of the Lear monument, was thrilled to be contacted by Kevin Bright, co-creator of the hit TV show Friends. Bright is a member of the board of directors at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, where Lear graduated.

Schifrin had created a bust portrait of Lear in the 1980s that caught the attention of Bright, and so he reached out with the idea of creating a sculpture of Lear on a much larger scale.

For the full-body version, Schifrin needed a team to create this this six-foot-three-inch bronze sculpture accompanied by a 10-foot bronze story wall.

“I approached my friends at the Academy as soon as I got the email,” Schifrin said. He teamed up with fellow instructor David Duskin, Academy alumna Darling Gonzalez, and Tom Durham, Director of the School of Fine Art-Sculpture to collaborate on this project.

A Legacy Sculpted

Once the team was assembled, they set the collective goal to try and encompass as much of Lear’s legacy as possible. They wanted to capture his spectacular storytelling skills, his groundbreaking activism, his ability to challenging racial stereotypes with humor, his work breaking down social barriers, and defense of the First Amendment.

Indeed, they wanted to carve more than a statue that would manifest Lear’s presence. It was important to incorporate his values as well, his values align so clearly with those of the Academy.

“We want our students to be artists who make statements, not just artists who make pretty objects,” said Durham. “We want them to think about how you can say something about yourself, society, and the times we live [in]. That’s what Norman did.”

Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Jerry Van Dyke and Norman Lear
Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Jerry Van Dyke and Norman Lear (Courtesy: @TheNormalLear)

Finishing Touches

Bright approved the initial design of this monument last month after he reviewed the clay prototype. “His exact words were, ‘I feel like I am in Norman’s presence,’” said Schifrin. “That was the best thing I could have heard.”

The monument is designed to be at street-level to differentiate it from other statues in Boston that loom over observers. This resonates with Lear’s personality as a down-to-eary, approachable person.

Next, the team will cast the monument’s clay prototype in bronze and sandblast the story wall with engravings. The final work is scheduled for unveiling in May 2018 in Boston.

For more information about the Lear Monument, please visit the Academy’s School of Fine Art.

Featured Image Courtesy:  @TheNormanLear