Bedore modeled statue with brickyard clay
| The busy driver hurrying by the Courthouse Square in Green Bay hardly notices one of the area's treasures. "The Spirit of the Northwest."
Designed and modeled by Sidney Bedore, the statue, frequently captured on videotape by visiting TV crews, stands on the northeast corner of Courthouse Square.
Bedore was born in Stephenson Mich., in 1883. His mother, Mrs. Louis Bedore, was a direct descendant of Charles De Langlade, the first permanent white settler of Green Bay. The youngest of three brothers, Sydney was left alone at an early age with his mother, after his father and two elder brothers died.
At the age of 12, Bedore moved to Green Bay with his mother and stepfather. Young Bedore found work in the Finnegan brickyard, later the Barkhausen brickyard, when he was 18.
Around that time, Bedore visited Chicago with a friend. While visiting the Art Institute, Bedore saw a head molded from clay that was badly cracked.
"If I could model that," he said, "I could fix it so that it would not break because I know how to fire clay."
Upon returning to Green Bay, Bedore used clay from the brickyard to model three heads in one day. They were not perfect examples of modeling, but they were good enough to please friends who saw them.
This was the first evidence of talent as a sculptor. As a boy, he had not exhibited any talent or inclination toward an art career.
Bedore's art at the brickyard attracted the attention of Fred Merrill, a member of the law firm of Evans and Merrill. When told by Merrill that he should leave the brickyard and pursue art, Bedore said, "Art is a rich man's game."
Over the next decade or so, Bedore began devoting more and more of his spare time to modeling. During that time, he was able to save enough money to attend classes at the Art Institute in Chicago. He then went to New York City, where he enrolled at the Beaux Arts, one of the most prestigeous art schools of the era. There, he won the school's grand prize for his work during the one year he was at the school.
Bedore's first great work was the statue of Theodore Roosevelt at Benton Harbor, Mich., which was unveiled in 1922.
About a year earlier, he began modeling a plaster statue symbolizing the Northwest. A small group of Green Bay citizens became interested in the statue with the hope that it would stay in Green Bay.
Miss Deborah B. Mart.in, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Courtney Neville and Mrs.R. C. Buchanan, all prominent citizens of their time, were among the interested parties.
With the hope of securing the statue for Green Bay, these citizens kept in contact with Bedore.
Finally sufficient funds were pledged to bring the plaster model of the statue to the city for an exhibition. The model was exhibited at the Neville Public Museum, and later in the new Northern Building.
Showing of the model increased public interest in the statue, and a citizens committee was formed to launch a movement for public donations toward a fund that would have the image reproduced in stone.
Bedore was called upon and agreed to procure the necessary material, Bedford stone, and to do the work for $7,500, a figure greatly below the cost of the labor.
The citizens' committee appeared before the county board and secured an appropriation of, $3,750. half the cost of the statue. It was agreed that the statue should be erected on the courthouse lawn. The exact location was chosen by the committee in collaboration with the County board and Bedore.
"The Spirit of the Northwest" was unveiled June I0, 1931. Deoorah B. Martin, librarian at the Kellogg Public Library, suggested the figures for the monument.
From left to right, the figures are a member of the Outagamie tribe, Father Claude Allouez, S.J., a French rnissionary, and Nicholas Perrot, first governor of the old Northwest Territory.
Another well-known work by Bedore is the statue of Jean Nicolet near Red Banks on Highway 57. It was commissioned in 1939 by the state Nicolet Memorial Commission. Bedore worked on it at his studio in Lake Geneva. It was dedicated June 3, 1951, and paid for in part by pennies donated by Wisconsin school children.
In 1917, Sidney Bedore married Lou Matthews, an artist in her own right. She painted murals between 1933 and 1935 for West High School, using students as models.
Sidney Bedore died in 1955 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lou died in Lake Geneva in 1962.
(Submitted by Duane F. Ebert, Brown County Historical Society.)