A landmark work of art is taking shape in Mandarin — and the public will have an opportunity this weekend to witness the artist in action.
Renowned artist Brenda Councill will be putting the finishing touches on her clay sculpture, “Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin,” before sending it off to a foundry, where it will be cast in bronze. When finished, the bronze sculpture will be brought back and installed in Walter Jones Historic Park alongside the Mandarin Museum and the 1898 St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African American Children.
This is the first-ever, life-sized sculpture of the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” who lived in Mandarin for 17 winters and made tremendous contributions to the riverside community.
Admission is free to the Mandarin Store & Post Office, 12471 Mandarin Road, where Councill has been putting in long hours with the project for the past two months. Open studio is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The sculpture itself depicts Stowe teaching two young boys — one Black, one White — their ABCs. The boys are seated on an orange crate, Stowe on a bench that will accommodate park visitors who would like to sit next to the famous abolitionist and author and maybe have their photo taken with her.
Councill, who grew up in Mandarin learning all about Stowe, expressed hope that her sculpture would inspire people to visit the museum and learn more about the author and her legacy.
Stowe, who arrived in Mandarin in 1867 and purchased 30 acres of property, helped to build the first Freedman’s Bureau and a school for Black children there. Her famous 1952 novel played an important role in revealing the evils of slavery and inspiring people to put an end to it.
“That’s why creating this monument to her is so important for Jacksonville and for the United States,” said Councill. “The whole nation should know her story, and it should be perpetuated generation to generation.”
Because the project is very expensive, local residents hope to raise money to pay for it. In fact, sponsorship opportunities are available. For further information, contact the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society.
Learn more at mandarinmuseum.org.