Sandburg sculpture honors Galesburg’s poet of the people

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Lonnie Stewart is an internationally-recognized artist on the move these days. In the back of an East Peoria metal shop on Friday, he's going to work.

Working on an elevated scaffold, the Galesburg native is creating a tribute to Galesburg icon Carl Sandburg.

Sandburg, who died in 1967, was the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln biographer and 20th century poet born and raised in Galesburg.

"Sandburg is an inspiration for many reasons," Stewart said. "First of all, his poetry."

While this nine-and-a-half-foot sculpture is larger than life, the impression is very down-to-earth. Stewart works with clay to visualize this poet of the people.

"It's just a fascinating story," he said. "And I loved his image, too."

It's a meticulous, time-consuming process. Stewart uses photos to capture each detail. There's even Sandburg's guitar and a goat to symbolize his passion for nature.

"I want him to look out over Galesburg with retrospect and introspect," he said.

In coming months, it will be cast into a bronze likeness of Sandburg, down to each wavy hair on his head.

The Sandburg sculpture will come home to Galesburg's Central Park in spring 2013. He'll watch over the town that inspired his writing.

Galesburg's Public Art Commission still needs to raise about $100,000 to complete the project. To find out ways to help, check the website,

"Carl Sandburg, no doubt, left his mark on Galesburg as well as he has around the world," said Chuck Bednar, commission president.

It will be a special homecoming for Galesburg and Lonnie Stewart. He's restoring the luster on this literary legend.

"I hope they appreciate his accomplishments, and how we're honoring him," Stewart concluded. "That's the main importance to it."

Years in the works, there will be poetic justice for this native son of Galesburg next year.