News Local/State

Fundraiser For Ebert Sculpture Underway


When filmgoers attend Roger Ebert’s 16th annual film festival in Champaign next spring, they will be able to pose with the famous Urbana native.

A fundraiser campaign aims to build a life-size sculpture of Ebert, and unveil it as part of Ebertfest in late April, outside the Virginia Theatre. 

The bronze tribute to the late University of Illinois graduate and longtime Chicago Sun-Times critic places him in the middle of three theater seats, giving the trademark ‘thumbs up.’

About $125,000 is needed to build the sculpture.  

Bloomington artist Rick Harney said the project is inspired by his autistic son, a big fan of the film critic, and a friend he lost recently – who went some of the same health problems that Ebert did.

“She was able to rise above that," he said. "Her appearance had been altered.  And yet she was still able to paint beautiful pictures.  And the thing that she gave to me, and I think that in the last few years of Roger’s life too… what they gave to us is kind of a lesson that – there’s an art to living, too.”

Champaign Attorney Scott Anderson is spearheading a fundraising effort that includes the cities of Champaign and Urbana, Public Art League, and University of Illinois’ College of Media.

"This fundraising campaign offers the citizens of our communities and movie fans everywhere the opporunity to share in celebrating Roger's contribution to the movie industry, the culture of Champaign-Urbana, and some of the joy we have experienced in our own lives while watching and discussing movies," he said.

Any money raised in excess of what is necessary will go to Ebertfest, the Virginia Theater, and the Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies at the U of I, which is expected to start up next year.