San Marcos breaks ground on LBJ-MLK memorial

The San Marcos Arts Commission and City of San Marcos hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 21 for a sculpture commemorating the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

More than 100 members of the community gathered to hear speeches from San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero, Texas State University artist in residence Eugene Lee and others involved in the project.

"I know over the last few years, as we've come to this morning in celebration of Dr. King's legacy, we've always received an update of where we are and where we're going," Guerrero said. "But today we get to break ground and move dirt and start moving towards the progress of having the true sculpture here in our community."

Diann McCabe, chairwoman of the LBJ-MLK Memorial Crossroads Committee, said the intersection holds special significance because it links multiple cultures in the city.

The sculpture will sit at the intersection of LBJ and MLK drives in San Marcos, which city officials believe is the only meeting of streets named for both men in the nation.

McCabe cited the location as a "key entry point" to the city that links Hispanic and African-American populations.

"This corner holds a lot of meaning for San Marcos, both historical and potential meaning," McCabe said. "Amidst the signs of decay are an emerging identity; a future identity for San Marcos."

The project was first conceptualized in the late 90s, and in 2008, the Crossroads Committee was created to bring it to fruition. The committee, with help from the San Marcos Arts Commission and donors from the community, has raised $107,000 to cover the cost of the sculpture.

The committee put out a request for qualifications in 2011 and received 54 responses. The 54 artists were whittled down to three finalists who were invited to San Marcos to present their ideas to the public. By the end of the selection process, Aaron P. Hussey's work stood out from the rest.

"It's exactly what we wanted," McCabe said. "You can drive by, and you can see what it is. It's clear that it's about those two men. It's simple, but it's artistically appealing, and it's meaningful."

Hussey, a Louisiana native, said the project holds personal importance. Hussey's introductory sculpture professor gave the class an assignment to create a bust of "a revered personality." Hussey said he watched his classmates choose athletes and musicians, but after considering the assignment, he opted to sculpt King.

"I thought, 'Do these kids even know what's going on?'" he said. "I don't think they do, so we can't think of this as our work being done because it's not. I still meet young people who take it for granted. They don't recognize the history they get taught in school."

Hussey hopes to finish the sculpture in time for an Aug. 27 dedication ceremony, Johnson's birthday.