The city of Durant will soon be displaying a new life-sized bronze statue of the city founder, Dixon Durant. The statue, sculpted by local artist Janie Umsted, will be placed in Market Square and unveiled to the public on January 21.
Umsted said the project had been part of an improvement plan beginning more than 15 years when the Durant Market Square was being improved, and finally getting to create this sculpture was a “huge opportunity” for her.
Although she has been part of several public art pieces in the area including the sailboats welcoming visitors to Durant, Umsted said this will be the first life-sized bronze sculpture she has had the opportunity to create.
She told how her idea for a bronze sculpture of Dixon Durant was chosen years after the improvement project to stand in Market Square. Umsted said while she grew up in a family of artists, studied art in college and had made bronze sculptures before, a statue of this size was something she had always dreamt of doing but seemed unable to do.
Umsted said she does not think it was a coincidence that her idea was chosen to by a committee of Red River Arts Council members to represent the city’s history.
“I was born and raised in Durant,” said Umsted, adding that like Dixon Durant himself, she is also part Choctaw and is very proud of her heritage.
She said because of the great pride and passion she has for her city and heritage, making this sculpture was an almost spiritual project for her.
She said she came up with the idea for the statue because she felt Dixon Durant should be shown where the town began. She revealed the many difficulties of creating a large bronze sculpture including cost and an extensively hard process.
Umsted said it took one and a half years of work in her studio with help from her husband on an armature and sculpting statue with clay.
The statue will depict Dixon Durant in clothes of the era holding a staff in one hand and a bible in the other. Umsted said she chose the staff because in Choctaw culture leaders often carry a staff to represent qualities such as strength and leadership.
The bible was chosen to depict the fact that Durant was a Methodist minister, according to Umsted. She said that the clothing was a challenge because the only photos available of Dixon Durant are of only his head and shoulders.
Umsted had to research clothing of the era and construct the statue in what she thought he would wear. After the statue was created using a special clay, she then had to transport the sculpture to a foundry to be made into bronze.
Umsted described the process of transporting the sculpture to the nearest foundry available in Wilson, Oklahoma.
“My husband created a crate and we used a cargo truck,” said Umsted. “I was still nervous at this point,” she said, saying they drove no faster than 50 miles per hour during the entire trip to ensure the safety of the sculpture.
The statue arrived at J&S Manufacturing in March. Umsted has not seen the sculpture since, and while she said she is putting a lot of faith in the foundry, the element of the unknown still makes her nervous.
Umsted will soon travel to the foundry to help make final decisions concerning the finishing touches of the statue before its unveiling this month. She said she is nervous and excited for the unveiling on January 21.
She said she cannot wait for the statue to be unveiled and to be the one who made a piece of art that will stand forever as a reminder of of the city’s history for people to enjoy.