‘Great Contributors' Sculptures Bloom with Inspiration at Dallas Arboretum

Sculptor Gary Lee Price returns to the Dallas garden with new sculptures embodying important figures in history

Dallas Arboretum Dallas Blooms 2023 Gary Lee Price Mother Theresa
Dallas Arboretum

Tucked among the blossoming tulips, azaleas, and daffodils of Dallas Blooms at the Dallas Arboretum are some very familiar faces, waiting for visitors to stop for a chat. They are Gary Lee Price’s “Great Contributors” bronze sculptures depicting some of history’s most inspiring figures, now on view through April 16.

Price created these life-like sculptures of the most extraordinary people the world has ever known seated on simple benches.

“They are just like us. They are just people that have great qualities – both good and bad – and so I want to bring them down to earth, put them on the benches. We can sit with them and with a little imagination, have a conversation with them,” Price said.

Dallas Arboretum Dallas Blooms Joan of Arc
Kimberly Richard
A sculpture of Joan of Arc depicts the martyr as a spiritual soldier.

This series is Price’s third appearance at the Dallas Arboretum. This spring’s “Great Contributors” is more inclusive.

“So, when I was here before with other ‘Great Contributors,’ I had a lot of male figures. I had Washington and Lincoln. People were walking around going, ‘Where are the lady contributors? Where are the women?’” Price said. “I want to acknowledge everybody and all of their contributions to humanity.”

This year’s new sculptures to the series include Mother Theresa, Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc, and Amelia Earhart.

Dallas Arboretum Amelia Earhart Great Contributors Dallas Blooms
Dallas Arboretum
Amelia Earhart looks to the skies at the Dallas Arboretum.

Price’s response to his tumultuous childhood and an individual’s contribution to the betterment of the world influences who he selects to be a part of his “Great Contributors” series.

“I’ve always relied on these model people that have overcome adversity,” Price said. “Any of these figures that I select I want them to have contributed to world peace.”

The sculpture of William Shakespeare is a permanent resident at the Dallas Arboretum. Price chose Shakespeare as a “Great Contributor” because his works span the full range of human experience. Shakespeare’s bench is more elaborate than the others, with a skull and crown evoking themes of his plays.

“I just wanted to create a great scenario of life itself through what he was able to portray to us through all his plays,” Price said.

Dallas Arboretum Dallas Bloom Great Contributors William Shakespeare
Dallas Arboretum
This sculpture of William Shakespeare is a permanent resident of the Dallas Arboretum.

Price researches historical figures for months, even years before he begins sculpting. Books, films, and photographs feed his imagination.

“Somehow, I want to get their spirit. So, when you sit next to them, you feel their energy and what they were about,” Price said. “I really want that person to come through that inanimate metal.”

Each sculpture exudes personality. Mother Theresa holds a rosary, and leans forward with her upward gaze inviting a conversation or a prayer. Amelia Earhart seems to be looking to the sky, waiting to see another airplane fly over White Rock Lake. Benjamin Franklin has a mischievous glint in his eyes, eager to debate government and liberty.

Dallas Arboretum Dallas Blooms Great Contributors Benjamin Franklin
Kimberly Richard
Gary Lee Price's sculpture of Benjamin Franklin demonstrates the life-like qualities of his work.

Harriet Tubman patiently waits with her lantern to share the way to freedom. Joan of Arc is a confident spiritual soldier, resting with her sword. Albert Einstein is lost in thought and Mark Twain is communing with children. Shakespeare is eager to talk about his plays. Ruby Bridges looks to the future with determination and hope.

Price intends for people to touch and interact with his sculptures. When “Great Contributors" first appeared at the Dallas Arboretum, a group of children immediately began climbing on a sculpture of Monet. While teachers and parents tried to discourage the kids, Price was elated and urged them on.

“No, do it! Do it!” Price said. “The more senses we can involve with art, the more of an influence it has on them so they can touch them. That’s why my pieces have a lot of texture.”

Price is eager for Bridges to see her sculpture.

“It will be interesting to see her reaction because that was the beginning of her fame,” Price said.

Dallas Arboretum Dallas Blooms Great Contributors Ruby Bridges
Dallas Arboretum
Ruby Bridges is depicted as a little girl at the Dallas Arboretum.

The sculptor intends to add a modern icon who overcame great adversity in her early years to the “Great Contributors” series.

“I hope to be able to someday do a ‘Great Contributor’ of Oprah,” Price said.

Price hopes these “Great Contributors” help people recognize how they can contribute in their own way.

“Hey, we have incredible potential just like they had. They took advantage of it, used it. We can do that same thing,” Price said. “I want them to be empowering to others.”

Learn more: Dallas Arboretum

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