10/25/07 — Sculptures inspired local artist's creation

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Sculptures inspired local artist's creation

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 25, 2007 1:45 PM

Local artist Jim Norman has placed a statue he created called "The Reader" in the Children's Memorial Garden beside the mural at the Wayne County Public Library's main branch on Ash Street.

The statue is that of a young child sitting on a bench in front of a large propped up book, with a phrase on it saying, "Once upon a time ...."

The idea came to Norman, 89, while he was visiting a garden in Kansas City that had little statues of young children sprinkled around the grounds.

"One of them stuck in my mind," Norman said.

He returned to Wayne County and started sculpting miniatures of what he wanted to place in the library's garden.

"I gave her boots. I didn't want it to look like a doggone cemetery," he said. "I hope it wears well with everybody."

Norman's employer, General Industries, donated the platform on which the child's bench is perched.

The child and bench are made of molded clay sprayed with an alloy of zinc and aluminum.

"That gave it a metallic surface. And later I sprayed it with copper so it would corrode," he said. But that wasn't enough. He then covered the work in a cocktail of salt and vinegar to help it corrode faster and placed it in the garden.

Norman is a well-known painter, but he started out doing sculptures when he was a young boy.

"We went to a pottery place, and I fell in love with clay. I made a head, and Mama cooked it in the oven and it blew up," he said.

Then during World War II, Norman switched to painting portraits.

"I had a captive audience. They all wanted to be immortalized before they got shot," he said of the time he was in the Navy SeaBees.

Today, Norman and his wife, Etta Mae, have two children and a granddaughter who is in medical school in Columbia, S.C.

"They grow up fast," he said.

But the child reading in the Children's Memorial Garden at the Wayne County Library is timeless.