SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Sylacauga sculptor Craigger Browne is quickly becoming a worldwide icon.
His work carving masterpiece after masterpiece out of the world’s purest white marble continues to catch the eyes of people across the globe. Many of his works can be seen right off of Broadway Ave. in downtown Sylacauga. Among his most notable works of art is one of his most cherished pieces, “Sylacauga Emerging.” The sculpture, which stands tall in front of city hall, has become an unofficial trademark for the city.
Browne’s background in marble sculpting is extensive. He trained in fine arts at the University of Montevallo and soon after found himself overseas in Europe. In Europe, he spent one year as a student in LaCoste, France as a student, followed by a year as as a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art. His work is in private and corporate collections on five continents.
Today, the B.B. Comer Memorial Library held a celebration honoring Browne and his latest work of art, “The Warmth of Enlightenment.” The sculpture is a tribute to Tuscumbian Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
Hundreds from across the state of Alabama attended the event which featured a reception, multiple speakers, and a detailed description of the process of creating the iconic scene portraying Keller and Sullivan at the well when Keller spoke her first word.
The process for Browne has been long. He was first approached by the Lions Club of Alabama to create the piece more than two years ago. According to Ron Seybold, coordinator of the Lions Club Centennial Celebration, the club established the Helen Keller Memorial at Keller’s home-place, Ivy Green, in Tuscumbia in 1971, and wanted Browne to create a masterpiece for the site.
“We have a walkway there and wanted to add more items to it,” Seybold explained.
Seybold told SylacaugaNews.com more than 38,000 people visited Ivy Green in 2016, and in just a a few weeks, those visitors will become awestruck after analyzing the work by Browne when it makes its way to its final destination.
“He has done an excellent job on the sculpture. It is better than we could have ever imagined,” Seybold said. “We wanted it to feature Sullivan and Helen Keller as a team because that’s what they were. Many times Sullivan isn’t mentioned, but she is the ‘miracle worker.’ Her persistence and determination allowed her to stick with Helen, and create the miracle at the well.”
The block of marble weighed 24,000 pounds when it arrived in “The Cage.” “The Cage” is where Browne carves stone off of S. Norton. Ave. Today, the completely finished sculpture weighs 5,000 pounds. The design of his latest work was very complex. Browne explained it was very difficult to carve in the tight spaces that were required to create this particular piece.
Parting ways with a piece on which he spent so much time will be tough for Browne. He said he sees the piece as a child leaving home as an 18-year-old adult. He will be sad to see it go, but he knows he can always visit the piece in Tuscumbia.
“It was an honor to create this,” said Browne. “This piece was designed to educate the public on what happened on this day. Without this day no one would know who Helen Keller or Ann Sullivan are.”
Once the piece arrives in Tuscumbia, it will feature a real well. Browne said this will enable people today to experience the same sensation Keller experienced as she said her first word. It is also designed to inspire. Browne explained there would be no Helen Keller without the love shown by Ann Sullivan.
“Helen changed the world, but Sullivan was the reason why. We can’t all be Helen, but we can all be Ann Sullivan,” he said.
Browne also believes his newest creation will be a marketing tool for Sylacauga and its white marble. “This piece is Sylacauga,” he explained. “Every time someone sees this, they will see Sylacauga.”
Seybold explained the creation’s caption will have the city’s name on it.
Marketing the local marble is important to Browne, as well as Ted Spears, chairman of the Marble Committee.
“This will help recreate the glory of marble and all of its properties,” stated Spears. “We are pleased that we are recreating the image of Sylacauga being the Marble City. Craigger has been a vital part of this recreation, and we are thankful for his hard work.”
If you want a chance to see the piece before it leaves for Tuscumbia, it can be found at “The Cage” on S. Norton. Ave.
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.