With hundreds of people gathered around, Michael Warrick, while wearing pure white gloves that matched the chilly Dec. 15, 2017, weather, pulled on a golden rope to reveal a beautiful 7-foot sculpture previously hidden by a white satin sheet.
While confetti was released to celebrate the dedication of the sculpture, “Youth,” Warrick, a professor of sculpture at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, looked upon the permanent resting home of his artistic creation in the new and beautiful Shinjangdong International Sister Cities Park in Hanam City, South Korea, smiled, and thought, “This is a beautiful site.”
“The dedication was very memorable,” Warrick said. “In honoring the theme of youth, the activities included young drummers, dancers, karate kids, and teens demonstrating breaking boards. The American Taekwondo Association was one of the sponsors for the sculpture, so the Hanam City Martial Arts youth group also performed.”
Warrick created the sculpture to commemorate the 25-year partnership and friendship between the sister cities of Little Rock and Hanam City, which began in 1992. Warrick, Joon Park, president of the Korean American Federation of Arkansas, and three members of the Little Rock Sister Cities Commission – Melanie Berman, Robert Coon, and Ashvin Vibhakar – traveled to South Korea in December to dedicate the sculpture given in the spirit of international friendship. A video of the ceremony can be found here.
“Hanam is one of Little Rock’s longest and most vibrant sister city relationships, and the commission was honored to participate in such a meaningful ceremony to celebrate our 25th anniversary,” Coon said. “Michael’s sculpture perfectly encapsulates Little Rock’s strong and growing relationship with Hanam, and our desire for that friendship to continue on for many years to come.”
The sculpture is a 7-foot figurative female sculpture cast in bronze and composed of vines, leaves, and a small bird. The figure has a traditional green finish, while the small bird is coated with 23.75 karat gold leaf.
“The South Koreans were very proud and honored by the focus and quality of the work,” Coon said. “It doesn’t matter where you are from. You are always looking toward the future, and your children, the youth, are an important part of that. Your culture, community, and businesses are grown from involvement with you. They felt the subject and approach to the sculpture were very appropriate.”
Warrick found inspiration for the sculpture while watching the 2014 Summer Olympics in Rio, and finds it fitting that the sculpture was dedicated shortly before the 2018 Winter Olympics are held in PyeongChang, just a few hours from Hanam City.
“I was very impressed by the grace of the women’s gymnastics team member,” Warrick said. “The figure of the young woman in ‘Youth’ was inspired by the gymnasts.”
He also infused the sculpture with elements of nature – green vines, golden leaves, and a small bird that is meant to represent a person’s soul. Warrick gifted Hanam City Mayor Oh Boo Bong with a small sculpture of a bird and goal leaf, the same elements used on the “Youth” sculpture, on a cherry wood base.
The South Korean delegation gifted the Arkansas visitors with a trip to Jeju Island, a volcanic island and World Heritage Site. During the Dec. 16 tour of the island, the group stopped at a Buddhist Temple. Warrick wrote a prayer in remembrance of his first art teacher, Joe Corsello, who fought in the Korean War. Warrick described this as one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.
“Joe taught for 53 years, 30 in high school and 23 with grade school kids twice a week,” Warrick said. “Our tour guide offered to pay for me to write a prayer on a roofing tile with a white-paint style marker.”
In the future, Hanam City will also donate a Sister Cities sculpture to Little Rock.
In the upper right photo, a delegation from Little Rock attends the dedication ceremony for Michael Warrick’s sculpture, “Youth,” which was gifted to Hanam City, South Korea. The group includes (L to R) Robert Coon, Warrick, Joon Park, Ashvin Vibhakar, and Melanie Berman.