Clements sculptor Rowland Cheney has a dream for the empty lot at the southeast corner of Lodi Avenue and Cherokee Lane.
It's a life-sized bronze statue of William G. Micke, a Lodi farmer and businessman who was also responsible for the creation of Micke Grove Park and Zoo. The city of Lodi hasn't approved the idea for the Micke statue, but Lodi Arts Commissioner Ben Burgess asked the San Joaquin County Parks and Recreation Commission to consider contributing up to $150,000 for the project on Tuesday night.
Commissioners, who make recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors, didn't endorse county funding for the project because they wanted to see some formal drawings to get a better idea of what Burgess and Cheney had in mind, according to county Parks and Recreation Director Dave Beadles.
"I don't think there is even a finalized drawing; it's that conceptual," Beadles said.
Commissioners also wanted Burgess to return at a future date with the answer to several questions, such as who will maintain the statue, how much land it would require and whether the city of Lodi had an opinion on the statue.
Burgess and Cheney said on Wednesday that the idea was presented recently to the Lodi Arts Commission, but it hasn't gone any farther than that. Cheney, a retired art teacher at San Joaquin Delta College, has some detailed plans on paper, but he doesn't want to release them until he finds out if the city is receptive to the idea.
"I have in mind to have him on a loading platform with his hands on a hand truck with crates of produce," Cheney said Wednesday.
Harvest sculpture to adorn Downtown Lodi in OctoberA 7-foot-high bronze sculpture of an old-time Lodi farmer and his wife raising wine and grapes to the sky, is scheduled to be installed at School and Walnut streets by October.
Rowland Cheney, who has already built a sculpture of sandhill cranes in front of Lodi Station on Sacramento Street, is in the finishing stages of the $145,000 harvest statue planned for Downtown.
He has already cast it in clay and taken it to Atiler Frostad, a foundry in North Highlands. The foundry will cast the sculpture into bronze, Cheney said.
Source: Rowland Cheney
"I have him in a suit of clothes instead of having him in work clothes," Cheney said. "His shirt sleeves are rolled up. He's stopping to wave at someone. His hat's tipped back on his head. He had a 1930 to 1935 look on him. He's a businessman, obviously, but also a working man."
Born in Germany, William Micke came to the United States when he was 3 and came to Lodi with his parents from the Midwest in 1902. He was a farmer and fruit packer. His wife, Julia, was the daughter of one of Stockton's early mayors.
The Mickes settled on the land that is now Micke Grove Park in 1920 between Armstrong and Eight Mile roads in Lodi. They dedicated a 120-acre oak grove to the county in 1938 to develop a park.
William Micke died in 1961 at the age of 87 and was named to the Lodi Hall of Fame in the agriculture category in 1998.
Micke's tokay grape ranch was at Lodi Avenue and Cherokee Lane. A packing shed was near the southeast corner, with the Micke residence just south of the shed. That makes the corner an ideal location for the statue, said Burgess, who describes the corner as an eyesore today.
"It would be a good fit, I think," Burgess said.
If plans come together, it won't be Cheney's first venture creating a bronze statue of Micke. He created a statue of William and Julia Micke together along a bronze bench that now sits at Micke Grove Zoo. The statue has William Micke standing up, with his wife seated on the bench.
"He looks a lot like Harry S. Truman," Cheney said.
He discovered the similar appearance while looking at photographs of Micke while making the zoo statue in 2007.