Davis tapped for MLK statue

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Andy Davis has seen his artistic work displayed throughout the state in recent years, and his newest project could be one of his most high-profile creations yet.

Local artist Andy Davis at work in his studio. Special photo

The McDonough sculptor was named last week by Gov. Nathan Deal as the artist who has been tasked with creating a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that will be placed on the northeast quadrant of the state Capitol grounds overlooking Liberty Plaza.

Deal had previously named state Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus to head up the search that resulted in Davis’ selection. Smyre worked with state officials, the King Estate, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council and the Georgia Arts Standards Commission.

“Placing a statue of Dr. King at the Capitol of his home state is a long overdue honor, and selecting an artist is an important step forward in this process,” Deal said. “I am confident that Andy Davis’ past works, including a statue of Ray Charles in the singer’s hometown of Albany, have prepared him well for this historic project. I commend Rep. Smyre for his diligent efforts and leadership on this project and I look forward to seeing the final work of art.”

State Rep. Andy Welch initiated the introduction of Davis to the commission, which then researched his body of work. In addition to the Ray Charles statue, Davis is responsible for a Truett Cathy statue that sits in front of Truett’s Grill in Griffin as well as the Patrick Henry statue in downtown McDonough, plus numerous other works around Georgia.

When Davis learned he was being considered, he created a life-size bust of King in 24 hours for officials to view. That sealed the deal.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired our nation with his dream of hope, peace, justice, and human rights. I am honored to have played a role during the 2014 legislative session in passing House Bill 1080, which authorized the placement of a Capitol-grounds statue honoring Dr. King and was signed into law by Gov. Deal,” said Smyre, who presented the decision on the sculptor to the Georgia Building Authority board June 29. "It is now time for us as a state to make this a reality. Naming Andy Davis as the sculptor is the first step in that process. It was important that a Georgia sculptor be chosen for this historic project. I look forward to working with all the stakeholders as we undertake the statue's design, likeness and private fundraising efforts.”

The King family played a significant role in the selection of Davis, although the artist did not interact directly with any of its members.

“We believe the sculpture should capture the essence of Dr. King’s legacy — as a civil rights leader, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a husband, father and a Georgian,” the King Estate said in a statement. “We also are grateful for Gov. Deal, Rep. Smyre and the other stakeholders who have worked to ensure this memorial appropriately honors Dr. King, a native son of Georgia who left his state, his nation and his world a better place.”

Welch called Davis’ selection “a triumph for Georgia” and a great moment for Henry County as well.

“His [King’s] mission, sermons, and writings continue to inspire greatness. I have no doubt that Andy Davis, who reveres MLK, will apply all his artistic genius to ensure that this statue will both honor King and inspire future generations,” Welch said.

“God gives us all opportunities to make a difference; I was just all too happy to recommend and advocate for Andy Davis. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House and the Governor for choosing Andy, our very own Henry County artisan.”

Davis is now on a tight schedule, as the statue is scheduled to be unveiled on King’s next birthday - Jan. 15, 2016.

He plans to have the entire clay original completed within 90 days, after which it goes to a foundry for the mold and casting. Normally that three months would be five or six because of multiple projects, but he is putting everything else on the back burner.

One project that won’t suffer and will likely be enhanced because of this project is the Hood Street Arts Center in downtown McDonough, which Davis developed and which now includes his own gallery.

“[The gallery] is going unbelievably well,” said Davis, noting that new displays have come in recently from artists around the country. The second phase of the arts center’s development is about ready to start,” he added.

A reception for media, local business owners and elected officials is being planned for mid-August, just before the center’s grand opening.