The image of John Lennon in a white New York City tank is one of the most recognized worldwide. Though the singer/songwriter/musician/ex-Beatle was known, respected and loved worldwide, it was NYC that Lennon chose to call home with Yoko Ono – despite attempts at deportation.
In the face of those deportation threats from the Richard Nixon administration, Lennon stood firm in New York City, even when he was ordered to leave the US within 60 days in 1973. Instead of leaving, Lennon held a press conference in New York City where he and Ono announced the formation of Nutopia; a place of “no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.”
Though Strawberry Fields in Central Park stands as a living memory of the influential artist, with a mosaic in the sidewalk, a team of Lennon lovers are championing to erect a bronze statue of Lennon. They state ‘It’s not so much a memorial of Lennon but showing him with his message ‘Peace and Love’ –The life-size bronze sculpture leaning against a metal peace sign that reads, “Imagine all the people, sharing all the world,” “Love is all you need” and “Give Peace a Chance.”
Mike Santo of Duffy & Duffy Law hatched the idea of a sculpture after buying a bust of Lennon online from England-based artist, Laura Lian. When he received the bust, he was overwhelmed by its life-like qualities and inspired to bring that experience to others. “I was very disappointed to learn there’s nothing in New York City, either bust or statue of John Lennon,” Santo says. “The only reference is Strawberry Fields. I respect that and people love it, but in terms of visual, the mosaic is rather bland. And even though it was placed there with respect to John Lennon – his vision wasn’t there.”
So, Santo and Lian teamed up and started brainstorming. At first, they thought to create a bust, similar to what Santo had bought from Lian. But once the idea for a life-size statue was suggested, the two were sold.
Lian created a maquette, or miniature version, of the statue, one of Lennon leaning against a peace sign with the well-known quotes wrapped around it. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
Lian has created six more maquettes since and the Facebook page promoting the project has topped 101,000 likes. With the increased momentum, Santo and Lian started attracting others interested in helping with the project including Doc Ogden, Professor of Marketing at Kutztown University. The triple-sided team continues to fuse their strengths in art, law and marketing to move the project forward.
“We’re working on zero funding right now,” Ogden says. “Originally, we were looking at funding ourselves. Now, the mindset is to get a sponsor. It will draw a lot of tourists and from a business perspective – it’s going to drive a ton of business. It will be one of the most photographed spots in the city.”
The life-size aspect of the statue goes a long way, as the slight lean of Lennon will allow for perfect pictures of fans leaning back into the legend.
Another important aspect of the statue that Ogden, Santo and Lian all mentioned, is that the statue isn’t simply paying tribute to the music of Lennon, or the human being, but rather the message he left behind that still resonates and continues to ring true today, more than 30 years after his death.
“This is more about his vision of peace and his statements of peace,” Santo says. “Who can’t get behind that?”
The eventual hope is that once the statue is erected in New York City, others like it will be duplicated for cities around the globe, with minor changes to the statue – hair, clothing, etc. The project has already gained significant support from outside of the US, most of all from individuals in Mexico City.
Though finding a location in NYC has proved extremely difficult, a task involving some serious “political football,” as Santo describes, all are confident this statue belongs in the city and will be welcomed with open arms once it’s made possible.
“This is gonna get done,” Santo says. “Not because of me. Not because of my passion about it. Because when enough people actually see this – they’ll demand it. And once it gets done, it will be a major attraction for people around the world to come to this international city. You’ll see a crowd lining up around the statue and you’ll see these pictures all around the world. That’s a very easy prediction to make.”