Over one hundred donors and supporters gathered recently to ceremonially break ground for the new Via Dolorosa, a Sculpture Garden of 15 life-size bronze statues, by the late artist Gib Singleton, that depict the passion and resurrection of Jesus.
Scott Peck and R. J. Macahek, Museum Co-Directors, welcomed guests – including Faye Briggs, Roberta and D. Harold Byrd, Jr., Diane and D. Harold Byrd, III, Shirley and George Shafer, Dawna and John Walsh, Denise and Graham Hoppess, Bonnie and Paul Zueger and Nona and Dr. Wayne Yakes -- on the north lawn of the museum which will be the site of the future garden.
“Three years ago, Faye Briggs hosted a back-yard party featuring the work of Gib Singleton and small versions of the sculptures.” Peck said. “In one night we raised over $300,000. We’ve now raised over $1 million in cash and in-kind gifts to begin the project. Without such incredible community support, this project would never have become a reality.”
The Via Dolorosa concept is based on the relaxed style of the Mediterranean garden which reveals new mysteries at every turn. The gardens will be free and open to the public during all regular business hours and present a major new landmark for Dallas. After welcoming guests, Peck read congratulatory remarks from City Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates who “hope(s) this sculpture garden will be an inspiration to many who travel to the City of Dallas from all over the world.”
Peck acknowledged the many organizations and supporters who have made the project possible, including the Mattie Caruth Byrd Foundation and The Tia Collection, as well as the key players who will bring the project to life -- all on a pro bono basis: Architect Keith Crouch, Landscape Architect Susan Atkinson and General Contractor Kirk Kibler, who is also President of the Museum Board of Directors and welcomed everyone. “This is an outstanding amenity for the museum, the city and the region. It is a privilege and an honor. I want to thank the Byrd family for allowing me to be a part of it,” said Kibler.
The program continued with remarks about Gib Singleton from gallery owner, Paul Zueger, of Colorado, who represented Singleton for many years, and Dr. Wayne Yakes, a museum board member and friend, who spoke on Gib’s Legacy. Singleton began making sculptures from mud and straw at the age of three. After service in the army, he received a full scholarship from the Art Institute of Chicago and a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy. He was later recruited by the Vatican Workshop and helped restore Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterpiece, “The Pieta.” Among his many works, Singleton created a bronze crucifix that was chosen by then Bishop Karol Wojtyla to sit atop his staff. Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II, carried it for 26 years. Pope Benedict then took up the staff, and Pope Francis has also carried it.
The “Via Dolorosa” or “way of suffering” commemorates the last hours of Christ’s life and the fourteen stages of Jesus’ journey to Calvary. A final sculpture depicts the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. The original set of Singleton’s “Stations of the Cross” is located in the gardens of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it is a top tourist attraction.
At the conclusion of remarks, various groups of donors came forward to ceremonially break ground for the new sculpture garden, and then everyone moved into the museum for refreshments. The Via Dolorosa is expected to be completed in the Fall of this year and will be commemorated with a dedication ceremony.