Governor Frank Keating said he was thrilled when he saw the 17-foot tall version of the Guardian Statue for the first time. At Senator Kelly Haney's invitation, the Governor paid a visit to the artist at the Crucible Foundry in Norman Friday morning to get a first-hand look at how the work was progressing.
"We really have the Governor to thank for helping complete this project that was actually planned over 80 years ago. I was very happy that he was able to come see how close we are to getting the Guardian finished," said Haney.
"It's fabulous," said Keating as he admired the statue. "I am so grateful for Kelly's art talent, and I'm so grateful for the private donors of Oklahoma who have made this possible.
Senator Haney in turn told the governor how much he appreciated not just the work he's done on the dome project, but his support of the Native American Cultural Center currently under development as well. He also gave the Governor a chance to help out on the historic project.
"Now Governor, I don't want you to mess my sculpture up," laughed Haney, "But I'm going to let you put a piece of clay on."
The Governor laughed and said he was worried, but he took the clay and began working it into the statue. Afterwards, Keating told reporters, "I didn't do it very well, but I'm thrilled to be able to participate as a citizen in the completion not only of the dome, but the completion of the statue."
"I think when it's finished, the people of Oklahoma are going to be enormously proud that after 80 years we did it. Remember, in the history of the United States there were only two capitol buildings that were intended to have domes that were never finished until much, much later. The first was the U.S. Capitol in Washington, and Lincoln put the dome on in 1864 as a statement that the Union would survive. Our capitol is the only other capitol building never completed. Now, 80-plus years later, we're going to finish the dome it's unfinished business; something we should have done a long time ago and people are going to be thrilled," said Keating.
So far, private donors have pledged about $17,500,000 of the $21 million needed to complete the entire dome project. Both Senator Haney and Governor Keating anticipate the final bronze version of the statue will be completed by June of 2002.
"We're very hopeful it will be done in time so that it can be installed on the dome during Red Earth," said Haney. Red Earth, which Haney helped organize, has become the nation's largest Native American Cultural celebration, featuring thousands of native artists and dancers and attracting thousands of tourists to the state each year.
"This will be an absolutely magnificent statement on top of our capitol building celebrating our Native American Culture, and I think it's wonderful that someone of Kelly's artistic talent was chosen in a blind competition for the purpose of designing the statue. It's going to be really magnificent," said Governor Keating.