AKRON—The city of Akron is moving forward with plans to erect a statue in downtown Akron by late summer that will honor the heritage of the rubber worker.
Northeast Ohio sculptor Alan Cottrill is crafting the 12-foot tall bronze statue, which features a rubber worker from the early 20th century hand-wrapping a tire, that will be erected at a site on the newly redeveloped Main Street Corridor.
The statue is based on an image on the cover of David Giffels and Steve Love's 1999 book "Wheels of Fortune."
The statue will be placed on a pedestal in the center of a roundabout being built at the corner of Main and Mill Streets in downtown Akron.
"This statue will stand as a lasting testament to the sacrifices of every worker in the tire and rubber industry in Akron," Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said.
"These men and women—who served as janitors, engineers, office staff, and laborers—became the bedrock of the Akron community, and helped our nation win two World Wars," Horrigan said. "These workers built and sustained our city for generations, and their stories and legacies live on in us. We are excited to watch this project come together and we look forward to dedicating it in a way that honors their memories."
The first phase of the Main Street renovation project is on course to be completed in July and the statue itself will be fully bronzed by the end of the summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a slight delay in the delivery of the multi-tiered granite base that the rubber worker statue will sit on, but the city is tentatively planning an unveiling ceremony for early September, which will be designed to meet then-current public health guidelines regarding public gatherings.
"One of the unexpected benefits to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the amount of uninterrupted time I've been able to commit to this project," Cottrill said. "I've been able to completely focus my creative energy on this historic statue during an equally historic period in time. This statue represents all the men and women who worked in the rubber factories and who helped Akron grow and prosper. I'm looking forward to the unveiling of the final piece which will stand in tribute to them."
To complement the statue, local creative group Art x Love is leading the Rubber Worker Stories Project. The campaign, founded by Miriam Ray, aims to collect audio/visual stories from Akron's rubber workers and their descendants.
The project has recorded approximately 50 stories so far. All of the stories will be archived in the University of Akron's Rubber Industry Archives.
Excerpts of the stories are being paired with archival footage and will be accessible online and at an interactive kiosk, which will be installed in the primary viewing area for the statue.
The group is selling commemorative bricks that will be placed in the Northeast corner of the roundabout (adjacent to the Akron-Summit County Library) along with a solid granite bench and the interactive kiosk. Proceeds from the bricks will fund the Stories Project, the kiosk and the archiving of this history for future generations.
To date, the Rubber Worker Stories Project has sold 300 bricks and continues to sell more. The commemorative site has capacity to accommodate up to 1,000 engraved bricks, which can continue to be placed over time.
Commemorative bricks are available at a price of $100, which includes engraving of up to 60 characters (3 lines, 20 characters each). Additional sponsorship levels are available. All brick orders received by June 14 will be installed prior to the statue unveiling.