The American Issue Sculpture

Print
Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

The City of Westerville unveiled its newest public art installation on the City Hall Courtyard, 21 S. State St., on Friday, June 15. 

Named The American Issue, the sculpture tells the story of Westerville’s role 100 years ago as the intellectual and logistical center for the passage of the 18th Amendment. The constitutional change prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” in the United States. The sculpture was privately funded and donated to the City in spring 2018. 

The amendment was championed by the Anti-Saloon League, which moved to Westerville in 1909 because of the City’s “pro-temperance” reputation. It is from Westerville that the Anti-Saloon League printed many thousands of pieces of anti-liquor literature including the weekly publication, “The American Issue.”

Want to learn more? Visit the Anti-Saloon League Museum inside the Westerville Public Library, 126 S. State St. The library’s historians have curated and preserved countless artifacts from the Anti-Saloon League.


ABOUT THE SCULPTURE

Created by nationally renowned artist and sculptor Matthew Gray Palmer, Westerville’s newest public art takes an intentionally symbolic approach.

According to Palmer, the sculpture “embodies the conflict between government regulation and individual freedom and celebrates the historical significance of Westerville as the home of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Learn from the artist himself the significance of the elements: 

  • The limestone boulder represents the people of the United States, the bedrock of the Nation. The stone is split and divided by a large wedge with quotes printed on opposite sides.
  • The design of the quotes on the wedge evokes the news journals of the day and the use of raised lettering is symbolic of the printing presses used to print The American Issue, the official journal of the Anti-Saloon League.
    • Read the quotes featured on the sculpture: DRY | WET
  • Balanced atop the wedge is a barrel used to distribute alcohol. The barrel is unraveling, symbolizing the barrel’s inability to “contain” the prohibition conflict even after the passage of the 18th Amendment. The unfurling of the barrel has a slightly helical shape referring to a strand of DNA and the influence of heredity in the disease of alcoholism.
  • Water, representing alcohol, perpetually flows from the barrel down both sides of the wedge, over both sides of the issue, symbolizing the complex nature of this social issue. 

“The sculpture represents the dualism within each of us as we choose the paths of meaning in our lives, to live fully and freely, with a moral code that minimizes suffering and provides the basis for the betterment of ourselves and our society,” Palmer said in an artist’s statement.

 View renderings of the sculpture's dry and wet sides. 

FAQs

  • What is “The American Issue?”
  • Why was a figurative sculpture selected for this recognition?
  • Who is the artist and how was he/she selected?
  • How is the community involved in public art projects?
  • How were the quotes on the wedge selected?
More »