A. Lincoln Artist Unveils Latest Work
Three years ago, as Battle Creek artist Dick Schlatter was creating "A.Lincoln" using pennies to fashion a portrait of our 16th president, he talked with Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker about displaying it in the city's new police station. That plan fell by the wayside when Schlatter's creation actually won Artprize. The work is instead displayed at the Battle Creek Community Foundation at 32 W. Michigan, where more people can view it. But Schlatter had another idea for the new police station, and he unveiled it on Tuesday.
City and civic leaders and a few members of the media were at the new station at 34 North Division, as Schlatter explained his new work, a large portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. King's likeness was created using the printed letters of his famous 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech.
Schlatter said he thought the artwork was a good fit, considering that the Sojourner Truth sculpture is just a block south, the Underground Railroad sculpture is just a block west, and the A. Lincoln exhibit is a short distance away as well. And Schlatter also recalled that Dr. King once spoke at the United Methodist Church just a block south as well.
The January 21st unveiling happened on the death anniversary of Battle Creek pioneer Erastus Hussey in 1889. Hussey, a Quaker, was an Underground Railroad station master and published an abolitionist newspaper, the Michigan Liberty Press, for about a year until it mysteriously burned. He was a delegate to the Jackson meeting “under the oaks” where the Republican party was formed in 1854 and also to Republican convention in Chicago that nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860. As state senator and representative he introduced Michigan’s Personal Liberty Bill, to protect state’s African Americans from the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act, which forced citizens to aid slave catchers in returning escaped slaves to their owners.
Also speaking at the unveiling was Vivian Laws Ritter, International Ambassador for the Sojourner Truth Institute. As a young woman, she said she left Battle Creek to work in Washington, D.C. and was part of the historic 1963 civil rights march.
Schlatter said his goal was to create a portrait of King using the words of his famous speech, and do it in a way where people could actually read the speech.