DESIGNING WOMAN sculpture meant to define english village

News Staff Writer
The Birmingham News
Wednesday, October 14, 1998

Sculptor James Barnhill polishes his bronze Civitas sculpture.

Mountain Brook's english Village has a new resident. Artist James Barnhill and five city employees last week installed the Civitas sculpture in front of Joe Muggs Newsstand.

The sculpture, a 1 3/4-size bronze figure which appears to be designing the village, cost $50,000 and was more than a year in the making.

"I'm very pleased with it, and I think the citizens of Mountain Brook will be pleased, too," Barnhill said last week, while coating the sculpture with wax. "She'll get prettier from here on out as she ages."

City leaders commissioned the sculpture in August 1997 to help create an identity for English Village apart from Crestline and Mountain Brook Village.

It is intended to define the English Village in the same way the clock tower defines Crestline Village and the circle defines Mountain Brook Village. Each of the villages were updated through extensive renovation during the past three years.

Philip Morris, a member of the sculpture committee, said the sculpture is intended to evoke the memory of Carolyn Smith, the state's first female architect who designed many homes in the area and lived in the village.

The slim figure is wearing a flapper-style dress with bare feet, a look indicative of the era in which Smith worked. The sculpture rests on a large stone at the comer of Fairway Drive and Cahaba Road — the village's focal point.

Building the sculpture was an intensive process, Morris said.

Plaster casts of three buildings designed at the foot of the sculpture and the main body were completed before they were sent to the foundry and cast in bronze.

Mountain Brook fronted the $50,000 cost of the piece, but the village's sculpture committee promised to raise $15,000 in private donations to repay the city.

The committee has nearly reached its goal, collecting $13,210 as of last week, though City Manager Sam Gaston said more pledges are on the way.

"They are rolling in," he said. "I have received another donation today for a couple hundred and have gotten three other small pledges."

Many english Village merchants are selling T-shirts with a photograph of the statue's face to raise the needed money.