Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Woody Guthrie: Alan LeQuire sculptures coming to the Clinton Center.

Sculptor Alan LeQuire of Nashville was inspired by the giant sculpted heads of the kings of France he saw in Paris to create “Cultural Heroes,” sculptures of American royalty of a different kind: Musicians whose songs gave voice to campaigns for civil rights.

The exhibition of colossal clay heads, lifesized times four, opens Feb. 23 as part of the Clinton Presidential Center’s celebration of Black History Month. Seven sculptures will be included in the temporary exhibition, representations of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lead Belly, Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie, Marian Anderson and Josh White.


LeQuire’s was inspired to make monumental sculpture after a visit to the Musée de Cluny in Paris, where stone heads of kings of France that had been broken off Notre Dame during the French Revolution are exhibited. LeQuire said the sculptures in “Cultural Heroes” aren’t exact likenesses but are an attempt to “create a living presence. … That’s also the reason behind the scale. I want people to walk in the room and feel the presence of these remarkable musicians who, when they were at the top of their game, were almost channeling the divine.”

The sculptures will remain at the center until May 5. Tickets to the Clinton Center are $10 for adults ages 18-61, $8 for senior citizens, college students and retired U.S. military and $6 for youths ages 6-17. Active military and children 5 and under get in free.