Published Online: February 19, 2003
Published in Print: February 19, 2003, as Federal File

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Burnished Bush

Hamilton High School will be getting a little artwork soon to spruce up the front of the building.

The school in southeastern Ohio was in the public spotlight early last year when President Bush went there to sign the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001. The new project will celebrate Hamilton's 15 minutes of fame.

The price tag? Oh, about $400,000, courtesy of local philanthropists.

"They're calling it a sculpture plaza," said Joni Copas, the communications director for the 9,200-student Hamilton City School District.

It will have nine bronze figures, including President Bush, district Superintendent Janet Baker, Hamilton High Principal Tracey Miller, and several students. The work will include a black-granite dais, podium, and benches.

"The visual premise is that the president is standing at a podium ... as if he's addressing an audience seated on several rows of stone benches," said sculptor Jarret K. Hawkins.

Donna Y. Carruthers and her husband, Ralph R. "Pat" Carruthers, who are footing the bill, talked over ideas to celebrate the event with Ms. Baker.

"We were looking for a way to commemorate the day," Ms. Carruthers said. "We were very proud he came [here]." The area is solid "Bush country," she added.

The sculpture is supposed to be done and in place by April 2004.

Some wonder whether the couple could have bought a nice plaque or something for say, two grand, and spent the remaining $398,000 on a more direct educational purpose.

"Although art in schools is a good thing, ... I would think those private donations could be put to better use by Hamilton schools," said Tom Mooney, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. He also said it seemed premature to build a monument to the work-in-progress education law.

Ms. Carruthers said she and her husband have donated a lot of money to Hamilton schools over the years, but thought the sculpture would be a fitting tribute, and one the public at large could also enjoy.

Mr. Bush won't be posing for his statue, though.

"We are actually researching his personal dimensions," said Mr. Hawkins, the sculptor. "By the time all is said and done, I'll probably know his hat size."

The president will have a "pleasant" facial expression, he said. "From everything I've heard," Mr. Hawkins added, "he had a good time and seemed to smile a lot."

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 22, Issue 23, Page 24

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