Sep 21, 2011
Over a year and a half ago I got an e-mail from Darwin Wolf. The Sioux Falls artist had a sculpture being placed in downtown Yankton as part of the city’s new RiverWalk project. He sent me a picture, then mentioned another piece on which he was toiling at his studio in southwest Sioux Falls: a life-size likeness of Richard Pettigrew, one of the fathers of Sioux Falls and South Dakota’s first full-term U.S. Senator.
The project turned into a feature for our September/October 2010 issue. As Wolf researched his subject, he came to sympathize with the embattled politician, who was shunned by every political party he ever joined. The project became as much about redemption as creating a monument to one of South Dakota’s early leaders who had nearly faded into oblivion.
I spent a morning at Wolf’s home studio, watching as he worked to perfect the Senator’s piercing eyes. And I met others around the city that have researched and written about Pettigrew. All agree he had a contentious personality, but has been treated unfairly.
The Pettigrew monument was tentatively scheduled for installation downtown last May, but uncertainties regarding funding pushed it back. Last week I received notice that bronze will finally be poured on October 7 at Bronzeage Art Casting in Sioux Falls. A launch party is being held in conjunction with the pouring at Cherapa Place, with music by Dan Maher, wine from Renner’s Strawbale Winery and hors d’oeuvres by Buffalo Berries, one of Sioux Falls’ unique downtown eateries.
Since writing the story and getting to know both Wolf and Pettigrew, I’ve tried to remain in touch with the artist. And I’ve followed the Woodlawn Cemetery Association’s quest to refurbish Pettigrew’s mausoleum, which is dire need of repairs. Pettigrew was interred there following his death in 1926. After 85 years, the marble ceiling is sagging and the interior shelves holding the remains of Pettigrew, his wife and his sister are in dire need of repair.
Regretfully we cannot attend the pour. The entire magazine staff is heading to the Black Hills that weekend to attend the South Dakota Festival of Books. But it feels good knowing that Pettigrew is that much closer to taking his place at the corner of Fifth and Phillips, where he can watch over the city he helped mold.