Documentary to Follow New Arkansas Statues Bound for US Capitol

Arkansas PBS is producing a feature-length documentary on the selection, creation and installation of new statues of Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash that will represent Arkansas in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The completed documentary is expected to be complete in 2023. It will be broadcast on Arkansas PBS and available for on-demand viewing and streaming on the network’s YouTube channel and various digital platforms. Additionally, Arkansas PBS will develop classroom-ready resources aligned with state and national academic standards for social studies and arts education for K-12 students to accompany the film.

For more than a century, each state has been permitted to display two statues in Statuary Hall that recognize individuals whose achievements reflect and contribute to the collective identity of the United States. In 2019, the Arkansas General Assembly agreed to replace the state’s first two Statuary Hall sculptures of Uriah Milton Rose and James Paul Clarke with statues of civil rights activist Daisy Bates and world-renowned singer/songwriter Johnny Cash.

Subjects for the new statues were chosen by the state’s legislature, and the parameters for the design and creation of the statues must meet the meticulous standards of the office of the Architect of the Capitol. Kevin Kresse of Little Rock (Cash) and Benjamin Victor of Boise, Idaho (Bates), were commissioned by the National Statuary Hall Steering Committee and the Arkansas Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission to sculpt the two new statues.

Benjamin Victor works on the sculpture of Daisy Bates.

Daisy Bates (born Daisy Lee Gatson in 1914 in Huttig, Union County) led the school integration movement in Arkansas during the civil rights era and served as an advocate and counselor for the nine students who were part of the historic desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.

Johnny Cash (born J.R. Cash in 1932 in Kingsland, Cleveland County) sold 90 million records during his career; was inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music halls of fame; and became known as a champion of the working class.

Bates will be one of the first African-American women honored with a sculpture in Statuary Hall; Cash’s statue will be the first of a musician in Statuary Hall.

The Arkansas PBS film will be directed by award-winning filmmaker Nathan Willis. It will document the selection, creation and installation process of the new works for Statuary Hall; illuminate the lives of Bates and Cash as worthy subjects for this honor; and reflect the creative process of the artists commissioned to create these sculptures.

The public is invited to visit with Victor as he works on the sculpture of Bates at the Windgate Center of Art + Design on the campus of UA Little Rock from April 25-29. Groups can be scheduled for specific times by emailing Amber Crawford at [email protected]gov. Victor will join Arkansas artist Kevin Kresse on Wednesday, April 27, at 5 p.m. at the Windgate Center for a reception hosted by the Political Animals Club of Little Rock, where both will speak about the project. More information on this event is available by emailing the club at [email protected].

Arkansas PBS has already begun collecting footage, including documentation of the steering committee interviews with the artist finalists for the sculptures. Additional research, filming and editing are slated to begin next week, with the delivery and installation of the statues to the U.S. Capitol anticipated in late 2022. After filming the entire process, Arkansas PBS will finalize the documentary by spring 2023.

Major funding for this documentary was provided by a grant to the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism’s Division of Heritage.

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