The statue, which was unveiled at the Elks Theatre in Rapid City on Saturday, depicts the former president waving one hand while holding hands with his younger daughter, who is also waving her other hand. The design was inspired by a photo of the former president with Sasha Obama at his first inauguration, the Rapid City Journal reported.
Barack Obama joins other past U.S. presidents who were memorialized in the downtown area as part of the City of Presidents project that was launched in 2000 under the Rapid City Historic District Tour. The project aims to “honor the legacy of the American presidency” with sculptures positioned along the city’s streets and sidewalks, its website states.
Painter and sculptor James Van Nuys, who created the Barack Obama statue, told the Journal he was happy the board chose the design with Barack Obama and Sasha Obama. Dallerie Davis, the project’s co-founder, said the group previously considered depicting Barack Obama waving by himself, before deciding on the final design.
“One of us said, ‘This is boring. This is not going to have the wow factor,’” Davis told CNN. “A man waving is not a showstopper.”
All of the sculptures are privately funded, the project’s website states. The Barack Obama sculpture has been designated to sit at the corner of Saint Joseph and 4th Streets in Rapid City, according to the project’s website.
Van Nuys told the crowd at the unveiling ceremony on Saturday that he felt a connection to the inauguration image of Barack Obama and Sasha Obama as a father himself, according to a live taping by the South Dakota Public Broadcasting radio station.
He shared that his daughter was his best friend when she was growing up, so seeing Barack Obama as a “dad with his daughter” held a special meaning for him.