After Years of Resistance, Richard Pryor Finally Gets a Hometown Statue

After Years of Resistance, Richard Pryor Finally Gets a Hometown Statue

Artist Preston Jackson uses a butter knife to work on the small details of his oil-based, clay model statue of comedian Richard Pryor at his studio in the Contemporary Art Center building in Peoria, Ill. (Nick Schnelle/Journal Star via AP)
Artist Preston Jackson uses a butter knife to work on the small details of his oil-based, clay model statue of comedian Richard Pryor at his studio in the Contemporary Art Center building in Peoria, Ill. (Nick Schnelle/Journal Star via AP)

(The Washington Post) – For the past decade, sculptor Preston Jackson has aimed to erect a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of comedic legend Richard Pryor in the two men’s home town of Peoria, Ill.

Creating the sculpture turned out to be the easy part. Convincing other locals that the city’s most famous native son was worthy of public recognition was considerably harder.

“So let me get this right,” one Peoria resident wrote in a letter to the Peoria Journal Star in 2013. “We’re gonna put up a statue of a terribly foul-mouthed, drug-injesting comic as a role model for our kids to look up to and imitate? I’ll pass, thank you!”

But Jackson, 75, who is co-founder of Peoria’s Contemporary Art Center, remained steadfast. He argued that the influential social critic was more than just an outspoken comedian, that he was also an important — and thoroughly misunderstood — human being.

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