Columbia Parks and Recreation
Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs
For many years, Columbia citizens dreamed of creating some type of memorial to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To begin to make the dream a reality, in February, 1988 the Columbia City Council appointed a committee including Liz Schmidt, Allen Tacker, Raymond Prince, James Gray, Tony Holland, Matthew Tyler and Janet Ruthenburg. During public hearings, citizens were asked to envision a memorial that would demonstrate a commitment to Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of freedom, equality and justice for all Americans.
Liz Schmidt, George Farris, Beulah Ralph, and Tony Holland served as the four members of the second task force named by the Council in June, 1988. They were to develop a plan to appropriately honor Dr. King, as well as to recommend a site. This Task Force spent almost one year considering seven different sites and evaluating many different types of memorials, including naming a street or a new school for Dr. King. The Task Force's final plan to the City Council advised that a special monument be located on a beautiful two-acre site in the heart of Columbia at the Stadium Boulevard entrance to the MKT Nature/Fitness Trail owned by the City. The Task Force felt that this central site would enable everyone in the community to come and learn more about the teachings of Dr. King.
The third and final committee, appointed by the City Council in November 1989 is responsible for determining the design of the memorial and raising the funds to erect it.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee (1989-1993):
James Gray, Chair * Walter Daniel * Liz Schmidt * George Farris Beulah Ralph * Joyce Jordan * Chris Janku * Sidney Larson Gertrude Marshall * Patrick Overton * Mildred Robertson
The committee held a national competition and twenty-five submitted models were evaluated by a five-member regional jury and a three-member national jury. The jurors' selection was augmented by votes and comments from approximately five-hundred citizens who viewed the entries at the Columbia Art League.
The winning design was created by Barbara Grygutis, an artist from Tucson, Arizona. With the winning sculpture selected, the committee focused on fund raising. They established a public/private partnership to finance the project and created opportunities for community involvement. Over five hundred people gave generously to make this "Dream" a reality. School children and other organized groups enthusiastically sponsored fund raisers. The Committee's fund raising goal of $52,775 for the memorial amphitheater went over the top. The City of Columbia appropriated $96,990 for the Garden and provided the site. Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department completed engineering and construction of the garden while the Public Works Department engineered the sculpture footings, adding over $42,000 to the City's contribution. The Artist, Barbara Grygutis, laid the final stones on the work. The landscaping was competed by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department in 1994.
Battle Garden provides a place for community and cultural events to occur in a completely accessible site. The Martin Luther King, Jr. at Battle Garden is truly an environment designed to bring people together, whether for quiet meditation or active participation. It was officially dedicated on August 28, 1993 - the 13th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
See also - MLK Capital Improvement Projects
A work of public art is a significant part of this Memorial Garden. The artist, Barbara Grygutis of Tucson, Arizona, was chosen in a national competition. Her winning design is a semi-circular earth mound built into the site. The interior of the mound is faced with five circular steps formed with granite. The surface of the stone steps are smooth so the people can sit, as in a small amphitheater. On top of the mound are eight triangular upright columns. These sculptural forms fan out to provide a radial display of the writings of Dr. King. The spiral is a global symbol for infinity. Dr. King's teaching bear universal meaning that will live in the hearts and minds of future generations. Linda Bolton from Tucson, Arizona, assisted Ms. Grygutis in researching the King quotations.
Barbara Grygutis is a nationally-recognized sculptor from Tucson, Arizona. She has created large-scale, site-specific sculptures for communities throughout the country including Kent, Washington; Miami, Florida and Columbus, Ohio. Her work has been exhibited at the International Quadrennial Competition in Faenza, Italy, at the Bronx Museum. It currently is included in the University of Alabama National Site Sculpture Invitational. Ms. Grygutis is the recipient of two individual artist awards from the National Endowment for the arts. In 1991, she was recognized for her contribution to urban quality by the Albuquerque Conservation Association.
"I propose to build a site-specific environmental sculpture that creates public space at the heart of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Garden. This space will evoke the essence of Dr. King and his teachings; non-violent protest, equality and justice for all. I visualize this space as a small amphitheater in which the late Dr. King's will be discussed. This environment is designed to bring people together. The sculpture will create a forum in which people will congregate, a forum for meaningful dialogue, which is a primary concept of the late Dr. King's teachings."
"I have a dream.... it is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it's creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day in the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together, struggle together, go to jail together, stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning ' My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside let freedom ring.' And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside let freedom ring! When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"