STARKVILLE — Supervisors approved a proposal Monday for the addition of small figurine structures to Unity Park on Douglas L. Conner Drive to symbolize social justice.
This project, “Onward,” is led by local Mississippi artist and archaeologist, Dylan Karges. He plans to install six- to 12-inch iron sculptures with different faces of people from Oktibbeha County into a four- to five-inch raised base. He hopes the sculptures will be another way to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of the county residents, he said.
“The idea is to pull the focus back to the history and the legacy of the park,” Karges said. “Each piece would be unique to represent all of the individuals in the community just for their role. Everybody has a stake in bringing the community together, so each one will be different.”
The board of supervisors created Unity Park in 2013 after concerned citizens believed there should be something honoring those who fought for civil rights in Oktibbeha County and the state of Mississippi. The supervisors named the area “Unity Park,” where the Oktibbeha County School System Office Building was once located, and built a wall commemorating six civil rights activists: A. Philip Randolph, President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gov. William Winter. County residents have added local names to the wall each year with the two most recent being the late George W. Evans and the late Fenton Peters.
“I just felt like it was great symbolism to still come together with all those faces of the figures pointing towards the wall that acknowledges the history and the ongoing efforts of the community to work towards bringing the community together,” Karges said.
The cost of this project will be $8,600 with half the funding coming from a Mississippi Arts Commission grant and the rest coming from the county.
Karges presented a prototype of one of these figures at the meeting Monday. He said although he has been making sculptures like these in clay for 20 years, the figures will be cast in iron for durability.
Karges told The Dispatch after the meeting that the sculpture should be completed by the end of May.
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller said the project will be something to spark the interest of the community.
“I think that’s a neat concept,” Miller said. “I think that will make people be like, ‘What are they looking at?’ I think it’s something else to draw attention to.”
She did express concern about people potentially demolishing these sculptures or tearing them down. Karges said the figures will contain a rod and be bolted down as a permanent installation.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard echoed Miller’s approval, pointing out the project represents the original objective of the park.
“I like the fact that it seems like it’s going to be unique,” Howard said. “Also, it’s going to be diverse, and that has always been the original concept of Unity Park, to have a diverse group of people come together to create unity in Oktibbeha County.”