Utah is still one of five states missing a statue in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall. But Utah's schoolchildren are being asked to help change that with their nickels, dimes and quarters.
Each state is allowed to place statues of two famous residents in the hall, which was once the chamber of the House of Representatives. But Utah only has one - Brigham Young.The Legislature last year finally approved sculpting a second, which will honor Philo T. Farnsworth, the Utahn who invented television.
But only about $50,000 of the $250,000 to $275,000 needed for the project has been raised so far, said Bruce Barnson, chairman of the committee appointed to oversee the project.
Barnson said superintendents of the state's schools have agreed that it is appropriate for children to raise money for the statue, so children are being asked to help raise funds beginning this fall.
"This is an appropriate thing to do. It was money from school children that helped renovate the Statue of Liberty," he said.
Actually, children are the reason the Farnsworth statue project has proceeded as far as it has. Students at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Butler, where Barnson is principal, wrote and pushed the bill for the statue through the Legislature.
Barnson said the idea came after students read a Deseret News feature about the lack of a second statue and a follow-up poll to see whom readers thought a second statue should depict.
"The students really wanted Eliza R. Snow (a poet and plural wife of Brigham Young). They were excited about having a husband and wife together in Statuary Hall. But they did a poll and found most people really favored Philo T. Farnsworth," Barnson said.
After the bill passed, the committee headed by Barnson to oversee the project solicited proposals for the statue from Utah artists. Five finalists were paid $1,500 each to prepare a quarter-scale model of their sculptures.
James Avanti's proposal to make a statue of Farnsworth holding a picture tube was the winner.
Barnson said the target date to have the final, full-size bronze statue completed and shipped to the Capitol is May 2, 1990. "It may seem like a long time, but we have a lot of money to raise."
He said the statue will be placed in honor in the main rotunda for six months, then placed in Statuary Hall or a nearby hallway. "They've told us that we don't have any control over where it will be placed, but said they will try to put it as close to Brigham Young as possible."
Barnson said a fund-raising subcommittee chaired by former Gov. Scott M. Matheson feels confident money will be raised in time from both school children and other people and corporations in the state. "But we need help to get the word out. I hope we can get enough before James has to start moving ahead with his work."