Mayor Don Wesely and the family of artist Louis Slobodkin participated in this morning's official dedication of "The Rail Joiner," a new sculpture of a young Abraham Lincoln placed this spring at the entrance of the Justice and Law Enforcement Center. The ceremony featured the unveiling of a name plaque and remarks by Mayor Wesely; Janice Driesbach, Director of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; and Lawrence Slobodkin, son of the sculptor.
"It is an honor to have the Slobodkin family in Lincoln to celebrate this wonderful new piece of public art," Wesely said. "Through the Pennies for Lincoln campaign, the entire community had the opportunity to be a part of this project. This ceremony gives us another chance to say thank you, especially to the school children who were a big part of the project's success."
The Pennies for Lincoln public art campaign was kicked off on Lincoln's birthday in February and helped to raise $17,500 to fund the new sculpture. "The Rail Joiner" was unveiled in May in conjunction with the opening of the Lancaster County - City of Lincoln Government Center.
Louis Slobodkin, who passed away in 1975, created "The Rail Joiner" for the 1939 World's Fair in New York. The original is now on display in a courtyard at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. In 1996, the Slobodkin family donated the plaster cast to the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery along with the right to reproduce it. The reproduction was cast in bronze by Omaha artist Les Bruning, and the Sheldon is loaning the reproduction to the city for permanent public display.
In addition to the Mayor's Office and the Sheldon, partners in the project include the Lincoln Arts Council, the County - City Public Building Commission, Lincoln Federal Savings Bank, the Lincoln Journal Star, the Lincoln Public Schools, JCPenney, the Mill, Big K-Mart, Russ's Markets, U-Stop Convenience Shops, Valentino's of Lincoln Restaurants, Broadcast House, Clocktower Merchants and People's Natural Gas. Other major donations have come from the Rubendall Foundation and the University of Nebraska Foundation.