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Sculpture of Kesey the Storyteller

EUGENE, OREGON.- Exactly two years to the day since the funeral service was held for renowned author, Ken Kesey, his likeness in bronze will be unveiled on Friday, November 14 in downtown Eugene, Oregon. The event, to be held at 1:00 PM on the Broadway Plaza, at the intersection of Broadway & Willamette streets, will be open to the public. Speakers will include author Barry Lopez, Mayor Jim Torrey, Brian Lanker, sculptor Pete Helzer and Faye Kesey.  

The lifesize sculptural piece, entitled "The Storyteller," will depict a characteristically casual Kesey seated on a granite bench reading a book to 3 youngsters, an activity which he enjoyed. Along the sides of the bench various quotes from his classic books will be inscribed. Pete Helzer, a well-known sculptor and a friend of Kesey’s, was commissioned to create the special memorial. 

In order to raise funds to cover the project’s estimated cost of $120,000, a steering committee led by Kesey friend and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Brian Lanker, sought donations and sold a commemorative poster, a photograph taken of Kesey by Lanker. The project has received broad-based support, selling thousands of posters and receiving contributions from over 250 donors to date. Supporters have been successful in raising over 90% of the target, and are now in a final push to raise the remainder.

Lanker commented, "I’m extremely gratified by the overwhelming and far-reaching support for this memorial. Ken’s impact from the grass roots level to famous admirers across the country has been a testament to the rightness of this project." 

A variety of well-known authors, celebrities and admirers have contributed support to the effort, including Phil Knight, Paul Newman, Michael Douglas, Mason Williams, Milos Forman, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Tom Robbins, Larry McMurtry, Jean Auel, Tom Wolfe, Ed McClanahan, Kenny Moore, Sterling Lord, Dale Wasserman, Rolling Stone Magazine, Viking Penguin, Rich Brooks, Dave Frohnmayer, Brian Booth, the Chambers Foundation, and Bill Walton.  

The City of Eugene will be the recipient of the sculpture gift and it will become part of the City’s Art in Public Places collection, which includes outdoor artwork funded through the 1% for Art program, donations and commissioned works. The Kesey sculpture is expected to become a destination point for residents and visitors.

The author, who was born in 1935, was almost a lifelong resident of Oregon, attending Springfield High School and the University of Oregon in Eugene where he was on the wrestling team. He attended Stanford University in 1958 where he studied with Wallace Stegner in the Creative Writing Program. He later returned to the University of Oregon as an occasional lecturer and was an avid supporter of the university’s athletic teams. His wife and family, who are in support of the project, continue to live in the Pleasant Hill area and will attend the unveiling ceremony.  

Kesey is best known for two novels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion, both of which are routinely studied in classrooms across the country and are frequently to be found on favorite book lists . Both books were adapted for the screen. Other books include Demon Box, Sailor’s Song, Kesey’s Garage Sale, Last Go Round, The Further Inquiry, and Caverns, a collaboration with a class of university students. He was also a writer of popular children’s books, including Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear and The Sea Lion. 

University of Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer eulogized Kesey in 2001, saying "his imagination was so grand because it comprehended so completely the complexities of the human soul and experience." 

The unveiling date was selected to coincide with a Kesey Symposium which will be held at the University of Oregon that weekend ( Speakers from all over the United States will be attending and presenting papers on the author’s works and literary influence. 

Fundraising for the memorial will continue. Posters are available for $25 each and will be sold at the unveiling event. Contributions, which are tax-deductible, and poster orders may be sent to Kesey-Lane Arts Council ( 99 West 10th Avenue, #100, Eugene, OR 97401). Donors of $1,000 or more will be permanently recognized on a plaque to be placed on the memorial statue’s bench.

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