April 13, 2018 Dublin, GA
Dublin is bustling as the city prepares to reveal two recently installed MLK sculptures honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 17th at 3 PM in Downtown Dublin.
Visit Dublin GA Chairman and Dublin City Councilman, Bill Brown encouraged the public to attend saying, “This project has been the best example of private citizens and businesses working together with public organizations like The City of Dublin, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division, and Visit Dublin GA to build a public space we can all be proud of and be inspired by. The installation of these MLK sculptures mark the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s first public speech and a new day in Dublin. A day to dream and be inspired, not only by Dr. King, but by each other.”
Funded by corporate donations and a tourism product development grant awarded by Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division, the sculpture, lighting, and landscaping complete Dublin’s dream of honoring Dr. King and marking the site of his first public speech. Designed by Dublin artist Juan Lleras, the MLK sculpture at First African Baptist Church was funded through a unique initiative that urged Dublin’s community leaders to donate funds towards the project. Dubbed the 5 for 5 Challenge, Dublin company YKK AP America, Inc., manufacturer of commercial facades and residential windows and doors, was the first to sign onto this challenge. Immediately following issuance of the 5 For 5 Challenge, local family owned real estate company, Curry Companies jumped at the opportunity to pledge a donation of $5,000, followed shortly after by a donation by Community Foundation of Central Georgia at the urging of Dr. Joe Carruth, and then the board of directors of Visit Dublin GA.
A second MLK sculpture designed by Atlanta artist Corey Barksdale will stand in the center of the plaza at Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park. Barksdale, whose work has appeared in the Oscar winning film Get Out, also crafted the mural at the Monument Park.
There’s more announcements coming during the reveal, from a new living play attraction geared towards bringing Dublin’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement to life to inclusion in a new state initiative.
King delivered his first public address on April 17, 1944, at First African Baptist Church as part of an oratorical contest, a fact which was discovered by local historian, Scott Thompson, who shared the information during a Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Resource Team visit in 2010. In late 2013, Visit Dublin GA, in partnership with First African Baptist Church, City of Dublin, Dublin Downtown Development Authority, and Laurens County Historical Society set to work planning an interactive monument and plaza to commemorate the historic speech site.
A photo mural highlighting King’s speech and marking First African Baptist Church as pivotal in King’s journey by Dublin photographer and graphic artist, Randall Gearhart, is on the interior of the gateway wall surrounding the plaza, along with a seating area. Gearhart visited the site often, photographing the park’s progress, and quietly working behind the scenes to insure each part of the project was picture perfect.
“I am humbled by the amount of love each partner has brought to this project. So much of this project was completed by local businesses, people, and talent. From Trey and his staff with GreenScapes to Pam with Sign A Rama, to Lance Jones, Wayne McCary and Deborah Stanley with The City of Dublin, and Fairview Park Hospital who sponsored the development of the audio tour, each person who has worked on the MLK Monument Park devoted themselves to building a shining example of unity, hope, and inspiration,” said Rebecca McWilliam, Visit Dublin GA.
Not only locals jumped at the chance to work on MLK Monument Park. Oliver Seabolt with Orion Planning Group out of St. Simons Island, Georgia was thrilled to work on the concepts for the expanded space directly across from First African Church, saying, “The significance of Dr. King’s first public speech at the First African Baptist Church is monumental for the City of Dublin and an invaluable memory for the Church. I couldn’t have been more excited or honored when asked to design a monument and plaza commemorating Dr. King’s first public speech. This was a rare opportunity to create a place that honors and memorializes one of the most influential leaders of our time. Dr. King’s ‘voice’ paved the way for racial equality and his ‘voice’ was first heard at the First African Baptist Church. This was a true milestone in Dr. King’s crusade which ultimately influenced the design. A monument, plaza, and integrated
landscape were developed as one cohesive destination that will provide an educational and emotional experience honoring this historic event and the later accomplishments Dr. King.”
According to Rebecca McWilliam, Director of Visit Dublin GA, cultural and heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry, with over 78% of travelers participating in cultural activities during their vacations. “With its interactive audio tour and mobile app, deep symbolism, and peaceful yet vibrant design, the monument creates a space that pays homage to the achievements of Dr. King and celebrates his legacy while also being a place of reflection and inspiration. We hope that generations of visitors and locals alike will use this space as a catalyst for envisioning positive change in their world.”
The project is a partnership effort between The City of Dublin, Visit Dublin GA, Dublin Downtown Development Authority, and First African Baptist Church. Many organizations, including the Dublin-Laurens Historical Society, Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Division, and others, have pledged support for the effort, and have joined in grant applications to help fund the project.
“This is a time for Dublin’s heart to shine and inspire the world. On April 17th, we’ll celebrate not only Dr. King and his legacy of peace, but we’ll celebrate each other. We’ll celebrate partnerships and we’ll hear how unity, like Dr. King’s message of hope, spreads and grows like wildflowers,” McWilliam continues, “We hope the whole Georgia community will join us, whether by hand or in spirit on April 17th at 3 PM.”