Tulsans getting behind Indian statue, artist says

Wednesday, December 15th 2004, 6:26 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The artist who chose Tulsa over Oklahoma City for a 17-story American Indian statue said Wednesday that local investors are finally contributing to the proposed tourist attraction and landmark.

Last month, a Tulsa lawyer who donated the land where "The American" is to be built northwest of the city said that investors from spurned Oklahoma City had outpaced input from the Tulsans who stand to benefit.

"I'm happy to report that that problem has been remedied," artist Shan Gray said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Gray said state and federal regulations bar him from assessing his progress in raising the $26 million to $30 million the project will cost.

"Everything's going great," Gray said. "It's such a huge project on every scope that it's taking a little longer than I had hoped."

Raising the money hasn't been as easy as Gray originally envisioned.

When he announced Tulsa as the site for the bronze statue in March, Gray said he had raised about three-fifths of the money, but he acknowledged losing an investor when he shunned the state capital.

Gray set a deadline of Sept. 30 to raise the rest of the money but had to extend that limit. He's now hoping for a Jan. 1 ground breaking on Holmes Peak, next to the proposed Centennial Botanical Garden.

Gray said in August that he had raised only one-third of the money. Last month, lawyer Gentner Drummond, who donated the site, reiterated that assessment.

Drummond did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

At 176 feet, the proposed statue would be 25 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, but the New York landmark's 154-foot pedestal would make the entire structure larger than the proposed "American."

"The American" would also be five feet taller than the Statue of Mother Russia in Volgograd, Russia, which is currently billed as the world's tallest freestanding sculpture.

"The American" will depict a young Indian warrior with wind blowing his hair across his face and an eagle landing on his right arm. His relaxed left arm catches a blanket falling from his shoulder.

It's scheduled to be completed by 2007 to commemorate the centennial of the state that began as Indian territory and is home to more than 250,000 Indians.

Engineers are about 90 percent finished with a 4-foot model of the statue that will next be tested in a wind tunnel, said Gray, an Osage Indian. The statue will be designed to withstand an F3 tornado.

Despite all the travails, Gray said he's not giving up on the project and he doesn't regret choosing the Tulsa area over Oklahoma City.

"I think Tulsa is the premium spot," Gray said. "It's just ideal on every level, from the people to the location. The mayor and his people have been wonderful, the business community. I know we made the right decision."

"Call it naive if you will," he said. "It's a big project, and I know you have to have patience."