I had big plans for August 16, 2020.
Huge, monumental plans with a weekend full of festivities to celebrate the unveiling of the new Charles Bukowski statue in honor of the writer’s 100th birthday. Even without a global pandemic cutting our fundraising efforts off at the ankles in March, I will admit that I was overly ambitious about what would have been a Herculean task. We were just about to release tickets to our first fundraising event when rumors of the quarantine started. It was disappointing but completely necessary to cancel our entire slate of events and just wait and see. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still here, and we were unable to gather for any celebration this year. But that doesn’t stop our efforts to memorialize Charles Bukowski with a monument. It only means that the party will be that much sweeter when we will be able to gather again.
When we announced the project last year, we got an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, including the council office, local businesses and our neighbors. Thank you to each and every one of you that donated to our GoFundMe campaign. We’ve had some substantial private donations come in as well. While getting attention from international news outlets was pretty cool, I must say the best part was hearing the local stories about Bukowski in San Pedro, whether they were longtime fans or just had a funny Bukowski anecdote.
The biggest lesson to come out of the initial announcement of the Bukowski in Bronze project was that a lot of San Pedrans weren’t really familiar with who Bukowski was. That’s why I am working with a local poet and academic, Christian H. Lozada, to put together a presentation about Bukowski, with an emphasis on the works he completed here in San Pedro. Bukowski’s writing isn’t for everyone, but there is a commonality we all have with him as San Pedrans, so part of the project includes a study of how San Pedro inspired his work. This educational aspect is all part of the San Pedro Heritage Museum’s mission to celebrate the San Pedrans who have contributed great works of art to the world. Putting up a statue was never the ultimate goal; the statue is just a conversation starter that allows us to celebrate Bukowski’s work while having an honest conversation about who he was and the legacy of what he did here in San Pedro. We want to show the world that we’re not just some blue-collar town. There is culture here; we have inspired great art, and there’s more where that came from.
The last year hasn’t been all disappointment and despair; it’s actually been a pleasure to collaborate with some really wonderful people. The greatest joy of which is getting to work with our esteemed (and local) sculptor Eugene Daub. From the minute I thought about doing a Bukowski statue, I knew Eugene had to be the one to do it. Getting to witness his process up close has been a true honor. What excites me the most about this project is allowing a genius like Eugene Daub have fun and do his thing. I trust his talent and aesthetic so completely that I know we will all be grateful for the result. Beyond his talent, Eugene has been extremely generous and patient with the process of keeping this project going. He has even created a special piece of art that we will be releasing soon as a fundraiser for the statue.
The honest answer of when we’re going to be able to unveil a statue is going to come down to fundraising. COVID-19 has really affected every aspect of our lives, and a lot of people are struggling in one way or another. Prices for casting bronze have nearly doubled because of the pandemic, so we’re back at the drawing board with designs, trying to figure out what this new set of circumstances means for the statue. Luckily, we have a master sculptor at the helm and an amazing committee that is completely committed to bringing this dream to a reality. I’d like to personally thank everyone who has served this project in any capacity, especially Linda Lee Bukowski, Anne Daub, and our current Bukowski in Bronze committee members, Liz Schindler-Johnson, Alan Johnson, Joshua Stecker, Kelly McLeod-Hernandez, Christian H. Lozada, and Lee Williams. We will celebrate a new statue in Downtown San Pedro, and it will be wonderful. spt