Living Lincoln Topiary Statue Unveiled in Late August

BY DYLAN SMITH, NEWS REPORTER

MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3)  – A Western Illinois University professor put the finishing touches on a historical addition to downtown Macomb, which was unveiled Saturday, Aug. 29. 

WIU Associate Professor Duke Oursler completed a 15-foot concrete bust of President Abraham Lincoln, with a steel top hat and a topiary beard that will bloom twice each year. The sculpture is on the front lawn of Macomb’s City Hall and was created by Oursler and his artist friend, Marc Moulton, of Statesboro, Georgia.

The sculpture was originally scheduled for an April unveiling, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $32,000 concrete and steel statue was paid for by a grant from Macomb’s Noon Rotary Club to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. The project was also helped by Macomb’s Centennial Rotary Club and Macomb Beautiful.

Because of the pandemic, the sculpture’s dedication and unveiling was limited to invited guests, who wore masks and were socially distanced.   

The hope is that the new sculpture, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world and highlights Lincoln‘s Macomb connections, will attract additional visitors to the city. Lincoln visited Macomb twice in the 1850s, both times to prepare for his debates with Senator Stephen Douglas. While he was in town, Lincoln did not have a beard on either visit, a physical feature that he didn’t display until he became president. 

The project began when WIU alumnus and Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (MACVB) Executive Director Jock Hedblade began talking with Oursler about adding something Lincoln-related to the downtown area as part of Macomb’s application to be a Looking for Lincoln community. 

The Lincoln statue was created using a 3D printing process with concrete. 

The project was managed by MACVB’s Visit Unforgettable Forgottonia office and regular maintenance at the site will be done by Macomb’s Centennial Morning Rotary Club and Macomb Beautiful. It is part of a three-phase permanent attraction initiative, which include murals placed around the community and other projects. 

Organizers worked with Sweet Briar Corner Market, near Roseville, IL, to choose the best flowers and greenery to fill out the beard. The statue has an internal irrigation system to keep it hydrated. 

During his nine years teaching at WIU, Oursler has not been a stranger to creating artistic spaces in Macomb. Several of his sculptures are placed around Macomb, he also led the project to display outdoor sculptures in and around the city square and is part of the Rocky on Parade project, which brought 84 artistic, concrete “Rocky” statues to Macomb and the Quad Cities, and raised money for art scholarships at WIU.