Miles Davis once said, “Always look ahead, but never look back.” Yet some Alton residents believe looking back is a matter of pride.
The Miles Davis Memorial Project maintains a varied fundraising approach in its effort to erect a statue in Davis’ honor. The group has held events, started Indiegogo campaigns and gathered donations.
The group began two years ago and has raised more than $50,000 to date. Project chair Pat Ackman hopes to complete the project with another $27,000. “We’re recognizing our history and improving our downtown district,” said Ackman regarding the project’s benefits to the community. “It will be a tourist destination. It will help with that.” The statue will be in front of 117 W. Third St. in Alton.
Musician, Miles Davis collaborator, and author Quincy Troupe believes the statue is long overdue. “Miles Davis was a great artist, one of the greatest artists in the world, in the century,” Troupe said. “Especially Alton and East St Louis should be proud of his accomplishments.”
For Preston Jackson, the sculpture is about Davis’ achievements, not the sculptor's own ego. “I want to make sure the emphasis is not on me but on the historical significance of the entire event,” Jackson said. “My task will be about separating my ego and make sure it’s about Miles.”
Jackson says this commission is one of the highlights of his career. He is also a musician and sees events like the fundraising dinner as a chance to educate the audience, donors and the curious in the right way about Davis’ legacy. Even though the fundraising isn't complete, Jackson has started work on the sculpture. The art is that important to him.
The Miles Davis Memorial Project started an Indiegogo campaign this month, raising just $348 of its $25,000 goal as of Wednesday afternoon. Twenty-nine days remain. The group also sells commemorative bricks and granite blocks for $100 and $500 respectively. Ackerman estimates 30 granite blocks of the original 100 are available for purchase and roughly 1,000 bricks are still for sale.
Alton Mayor Brant Walker said the city supports the project. “The city’s doing everything to make sure the statue goes where they want,” said the mayor. Walker believes statue maintenance will fall to the city and will be minimal but is unsure if maintenance funds will be the responsibility of The Miles Davis Memorial Project.
The sculpture will be the first statue of Miles Davis in the United States. “It’s about leaving a clear legacy, something you can see and feel about what this man was about,” said Jackson.
Troupe agrees, “I’m happy that they’re doing it because he deserves it and it brings honor to Alton; and it brings honor to St. Louis and the whole scene in which he played.”
This month the group will hold two fundraising events: a sold out dinner with statue sculptor Preston Jackson Saturday Aug. 9 and the jazz trivia night Sept. 12, 2014 at Lewis and Clark Community College. The dinner will be the second, and has already raised an estimated $8,000 according to Ackman. She believes the lesser amount is the result of a smaller event space and more intimate dinner.