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Organizers In Roger Ebert's Hometown Raising Money For Life-Size Bronze Statue

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 10, 2013 10:15PM

Roger Ebert with wife Chaz in 2001 (Photo credit: Art Shay, used with permission.)

Organizers in Roger Ebert’s hometown of Urbana, Ill. announced Tuesday they are raising money to build a life-size bronze sculpture of the late Chicago Sun-Times film critic.

The sculpture, when completed, would be installed outside the Virginia Theatre in nearby Champaign that has hosted Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival (Ebertfest) since 1999. Ebert attended college at the University of Illinois and never forgot his roots.

Donna Anderson, who has been the travel agent for the festival, conceived the idea after seeing a sculpture of former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson II sitting on a park bench with his feet propped up on a suitcase inside the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Ill.

The sculpture shows Ebert sitting in the middle of three movie theater chairs giving his iconic “thumbs up” salute. Artist Rick Harney was commissioned to create the sculpture and will work with Ebert’s widow, Chaz, on the design.

"The sculpture will be a permanent memorial which will honor Ebert for both his career and his dedication to his roots," said a statement announcing the fundraising campaign. "It will also honor him for his determination to press forward with Ebertfest in the face of huge medical challenges."

Donations are now being accepted online and organizers are looking to raise $125,000. Ebert died in April after a long battle with cancer.

Maquette designed by artist Rick Harney