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Jackson works on a painting.
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Artist Preston Jackson.
ALTON – With nearly $50,000 raised, the Miles Davis Memorial Project has reached a major “miles”-stone.
If all goes as planned, West Third Street will boast a life-size statue of the iconic musician, who was born in Alton. Artist Preston Jackson has been commissioned to create the sculpture.
“I am really enjoying this wonderful opportunity,” Jackson, who teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said. “A cousin of mine from the area actually contacted me about this project. I teach sculpture and I also play jazz guitar, so this seemed like a great fit.”
Jackson came to Alton and presented his vision to the organization, which responded with enthusiasm.
“Growing up, I visited cousins in Alton, so I have many ties here,” Jackson, who calls Davis a “true student of the trumpet,” said. “I have studied Miles for years. Trumpet players each have their own distinct pose and I have to catch the essence of who he is.
“If it’s not right, it won’t be Miles.”
Although Jackson has not been “officially” told to begin, work has already started on the bronze sculpture’s armature (framework).
“It is like the skeleton,” Jackson said. “Sculptors do not look at people on the surface. I am using various stick figures to capture the pose and the gesture.
“This is a kind of forensic study, really.”
Miles Dewey Davis III was born at 1112 Milnor St. in Alton in 1926. The family moved to East St. Louis the following year, and Davis went on to be one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, composing many current classic jazz and bebop standards.
There currently are statues of Davis in Kielce County, Poland, and Nice, France, but none in the Western Hemisphere, making this the first statue of Davis in the United States.
The Miles Davis Memorial Project is raising funds to erect the life-size monument, hoping to attain its initial goal of $150,000.
To date, the foundation has raised just under $49,000.
“This summer, we are concentrating on raising the funds needed to order the work to begin on the statue,” Patricia Ackerman, who co-chairs the project alongside Karen Wilson, said. “We need an additional $28,000 to make that phone call. It will take Preston approximately six months to complete the sculpture. During that period, we will continue to prepare the site.”
Those wishing to donate can go to the Alton Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Chez Marilyn, Ragin Cajun, Bossanova, Tony’s, Catdaddy’s, or the Big Muddy Pub downtown and contribute $5 to have their name on a “trumpet” to hang in the buildings.
On Aug. 9, a “Dinner with Preston Jackson” fund-raiser will be held from 6 until 10 p.m. on the rooftop of the Simmons Law Firm. The event includes appetizers, cocktails, dinner, live jazz music including a special performance by Jackson, as well as an autographed gift.
The event is limited to 48 people at a cost of $250 per person.
On Sept. 12, a trivia night will be held at the Commons on the campus of Lewis and Clark Community College and will be a fund-raiser for the project, as well. A $20 entry fee includes snacks, beer and soda.
Information booths also will be available throughout the summer and fall at various locations including the Big Gig Music Festival and Fall Festival Chili Cook-Off.
Memorial bricks also can be purchased for $75, and granite blocks for $400.
For more information, call (618) 467-2375.