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Street Scene Sculpture: Who are these people?

The Mystery: Who are the 12 people and three Shakespeare characters in Ashland’s Street Scene sculpture?

The History: You will learn how the sculpture came to be, the name of each person who modeled, and a bit about the life of artist Marion Young.

This engaging 14-foot-high bronze sculpture is located downtown on East Main Street by Pioneer Street, next to the Ashland Chamber of Commerce office and Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Theatre. Sculptor Marion Young came to Ashland in 1988 to sculpt two versions of Street Scene and lived here until her death in 2019.

Young was surrounded and inspired by the cauldron of creativity at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). For four years her studio was located within the old Scene Shop at OSF. Therefore, it is not surprising that many of the live models Young used for Street Scene were associated with OSF, most of them in the acting corps.

After years of work of fundraising, Young completed the sculpture in early 1994. The community dedication happened July 6, 1994.

Ashland artist and gallery owner Judy Howard said at the dedication, “Art tells a story of a particular culture and reflects the life of those in that culture. This sculpture reflects the spirit of our community and will tell the Ashland story for generations to come.”

If you have looked closely at the Street Scene sculpture, you may have already identified one or more of the local actors and residents who modeled for Young.

I thought it would be simple to find the names of everyone who modeled for this piece, but it was surprisingly difficult to determine the names of the two children. I received invaluable help from Young’s niece Robyn Jones and Young’s friend — and chief fundraiser for the sculpture — Lloyd Matthew Haines. I shared clues with my new Ashland history friend Tom Woosnam, who was also seeking the names of every person in Street Scene.

Marion Young’s life: Sculptor Marion Young was born in California on Nov. 25, 1934, and died in Ashland on April 12, 2019. She had happy years as a child living on a farm in the Oakland hills.

Young grew up in a very artistic family. Her mother was a poet and musician and her father was a painter and musician. She attended San Francisco State University, with a major in biology and a minor in art. Her plan was to become a medical illustrator, but she became an actor after college. Her artistic and life journey finally brought her to sculpture, where she was able to express all of her skills.

In order to enhance her sculpting skills, she took a deep dive into exploring the physical aspects of what it means to be human. How deep? She not only took anatomy class, but also dissected human bodies at UCLA School of Medicine. That is deep!

If you visit the Ashland Library, you have seen another one of Marion Young’s sculptures. Just within the library front doors is a life size bust of Vincent Van Gogh. Henry Woronicz, former OSF actor and Artistic Director, served as the model. The Van Gogh sculpture provides a good example of Young’s deep preparation for a piece.

First, she and Woronicz created a half-hour script edited from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. Then, studying Van Gogh’s paintings, Young reproduced his bedroom in her studio using OSF props. Only after all this preparation did Woronicz get into his “role,” sit on the “set,” and model for Young!

Street Scene sculpture names: Finally, here are the names of the people who were models for Street Scene, with a brief note about each of them, starting from the bottom of the sculpture:

Smaller than the humans above, the three whimsical figures at the bottom left are characters in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

  • Bottom, a weaver who was given a donkey’s head by the mischievous fairy Puck. Anthony de Fonte, OSF actor, was the model for Bottom.
  • Peaseblossom, one of Fairy Queen Titania’s fairies who waited upon Bottom. Liz Wood, OSF dancer, modeled for Peaseblossom.
  • The Fairy Queen herself, who was modeled by OSF dancer Seva Anthony.

Now, the 12 people.

  • Kate Sullivan, OSF actor: She is “the inviting spirit.” With her arm extended and hand open, actor Sullivan portrays the pivotal figure who draws us in.
  • Virginia Kooiman, local child: She is “the child.” Young described her as “a crack Old Maid [card game] player at age 5” and “the most eternally fidgety model.”
  • Marco Barricelli, OSF actor: He is “the hero-father.” Young described him as having “a 2000-year-old classic Roman head.”
  • Marie Baxter, Hanson Howard gallery co-owner: She is “the ethereal young mother.” Young discovered Marie Baxter in the aisle at Ashland Food Co-op!
  • Phyllis Courtney, OSF actor: She is “the charming middle-aged aunt.” She portrays half of the charming middle-aged couple in Street Scene.
  • Lee Carrau, writer-producer: He is “the charming middle-aged uncle.” Young chose him to model as the other half of the charming middle-aged couple, everyone’s favorite uncle.
  • BlackStar, Native American healer: She is “the healer and connection to the land.” Young felt called to include a Native American female elder in the sculpture. She found local elder BlackStar, who had trained as a Comanche traditional healer.
  • Robert Barnett, OSF actor: He is “the story teller.” When Young saw Barnett perform in an OSF play, she thought “his Norman Rockwell face and Harold Lloyd smile were irresistible ... filled with warmth and friendliness.” Barnett is signing “I love you” to the viewer.
  • Elijah Apilada, local child: He is “the typical kid.” Young found an Ashland Middle School boy with a feisty but smart attitude.
  • Rex Rabold, OSF actor: He is “the wisdom of Shakespeare.” A beloved OSF actor who died in 1990 at the age of 39, Rabold modeled for Young in his role as Shakespeare’s Richard II.
  • Shirley Patton, OSF actor: She is part of “the elegant dancing couple.” Shirley Patton has touched thousands of lives through her 75 years of acting (30 years of it at OSF), her vivacity, her kindness and her narration since 2005 of “As It Was” on Jefferson Public Radio.
  • Bill Patton, long-time OSF Executive Director: With his top hat, he is part of “the elegant dancing couple.” Bill Patton worked at OSF from 1948 to 1995, including 42 years as General Manager and then Executive Director, helping to guide OSF from 29 performances and an audience of 15,000 to 752 performances and 359,000 in attendance the year he retired.

Closing Words: Ashland enriched Marion Young’s later years, and she continues to enrich Ashland beyond her time on earth. Each year, thousands of people see and are moved by her Street Scene sculpture on East Main Street and her Van Gogh bust at the Ashland Library.

As his contribution to building community, Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street. Visit WalkAshland.com to learn about Ashland history, Ashland neighborhoods and Ashland stories.

PHOTO of Street Scene sculpture (photo by Tom Woosnam)