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Tad McKillop: Ohio Northern University MLK Statue Dedication

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McKil­lop (seated, cen­ter) at the statue’s ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony on April 172018

Tad McKil­lop (BFA 1988) was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate a statue to honor Mar­tin Luther King Jr. on the cam­pus of Ohio North­ern Uni­ver­sity. The statue, com­mem­o­rat­ing the speech King gave at ONU on Jan­u­ary 11, 1968, was unveiled in a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony on April 172018

A res­i­dent of Ann Arbor, Mich., McKil­lop has almost 30 years of expe­ri­ence in fig­u­ra­tive sculpt­ing and the cast­ing process. His reper­toire is var­ied, from small fig­ures to life-size stat­ues. All of his projects are 100 per­cent self-made, from clay to cast­ing, crafted in his in-home stu­dio and off­site foundry. He’s com­pleted four mon­u­men­tal com­mis­sions, the last of which intro­duced him to ONU for the first time.

His his­tory with ONU began in 2007, when he was cho­sen to fash­ion in bronze ONU’s founder, Henry Solomon Lehr. The statue has now become an iconic fix­ture at the east­ern front of cam­pus, stand­ing regally as a phys­i­cal embod­i­ment of what ONU represents.

That’s why, when the Uni­ver­sity was look­ing to com­mis­sion an artist with a life-size statue to com­mem­o­rate King’s Jan. 11, 1968, speech at ONU, McKil­lop was at the top of the list. He was excited to be involved in shap­ing ONU’s exte­rior ambiance once again, but he knew it was going to be a tall order. 

My ini­tial reac­tion, apart from just the excite­ment about doing it, was the ter­ror of doing it because it’s Dr. Mar­tin Luther King, and every­one knows what he looks like – every­one,” he says. His face is every­where, so it’s got to be really, really good.”

He has worked on hun­dreds of projects, but this one in par­tic­u­lar has been one of the most mean­ing­ful. He was first drawn to bronze to enrich the lives of my fel­low humans.” He hopes that every time some­one walks past his statue on the cam­pus of Ohio North­ern Uni­ver­sity, they will think about all that King stood for and how they can carry on his legacy of peace­ful change. 

It’s the most impor­tant project i’ve done, hon­estly,” he says. He rep­re­sents the best of us, or the best in us, the best that we could be, and i think those are def­i­nitely things that we need to hold up and cel­e­brate – make a bronze, put it on a pedestal. I can’t think of a bet­ter per­son to memorialize.”

The year-long project is doc­u­mented online in three Ohio North­ern Uni­ver­sity fea­ture arti­cles: Cre­at­ing the Sculp­ture, Meet the Artist, and Mark­ing the Occa­sion.

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