Russell's Legacy Will be Commemorated at City Hall Plaza

BOSTON – The mystery is over: Bill Russell’s legacy will live on forever in a prime location at Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

The statue’s future location was announced on site Monday morning, where several key figures in the process of determining the location were on hand. Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Celtics Managing Partner/Co-owner and President of the Shamrock Foundation Stephen Pagliuca, and members of the Bill Russell Legacy Committee broke the news in the early morning in front of a crowd of onlookers.

“Today we mark another critical milestone in Boston’s tribute to Bill Russell, the greatest sports champion of our time and a tremendous advocate for human rights and education,” said Mayor Menino, who opened up the morning’s presentation. “I am pleased to announce that the Bill Russell Legacy Committee has chosen City Hall Plaza as the location for the statue, as it is a fitting tribute to his civic commitment, and is easily accessible for residents, fans, and visitors to enjoy.”

The statue will be located just steps away from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, which combine as one of Boston’s most popular tourist destinations. The chosen location is in an open area of the plaza between City Hall and two commercial buildings. Boston had previously planned structural improvements to this area of the plaza, and those efforts will be synchronized with the implementation of the statue next spring.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell recently posed for a photo with a group of youngsters at the future site of his statue.
Heather Walker/Boston Celtics

“As you can see, this is a fantastic location,” Pagliuca said to the crowd. “We’ve looked at the work of [three] artists, and I don’t know how they’re going to separate them out; they’ve all done fantastic statues. Bill Russell was not only a great Celtic and champion, he’s a mentor, and he supported human rights through Boston, through the world. We’re just very honored to be here to celebrate that. This is going to be a fantastic project, a great site.”

The project is aimed to celebrate all of Russell’s achievements, both on and off the court. Pagliuca added that the big-picture goal is to create a statue that will not just be something to look at, but also something to interact with.

“I think the committee has really talked about making this be a statue symbolic of the basketball, but more than that... human rights, mentoring,” said Pagliuca. “Bill has been associated with mentoring the city, healing in the city, and we’re very excited about that aspect of it. It’s going to be interactive. It’s going to be a meeting place where people reflect on all of the progress we’ve made in America and in Boston.”

The three artists who have been selected to compete for the final statue are Fern Cunningham, Ann Hirsch and Antonio Tobias Mendez. All three have produced impressive work in the past and were chosen by the Legacy Committee and Boston Art Commission after a long open-submission process.

Mayor Menino indicated that the remaining phases of the project are likely to move very quickly.

“I look forward to when the presentations of our three architects are presented to City Hall in October,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, we’ll make a decision (on the winning design) and we’ll move forward on this project.”

Funding for the project will not be coming from the city. The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation has taken the lead role in that aspect of the project, which runs much deeper than simply the construction of the statue.

“We’re right now doing some private fundraising that we’re going to open up to the public, and we’re going to try and fund the statue – not only the statue, but an ongoing tribute for the Mass Mentoring Society, in partnership with them,” revealed Pagliuca. “So we’re actually going to help kids on a day-by-day, year-by-year basis going into the future. So this is a little bit different and unique. It’s not just a statue; it’s more than a statue. It’s helping kids; it’s representing all of the good things that have happened here in Boston in terms of human rights and civil rights.”

Though Russell was not in attendance at the revealing of the site, you can imagine that somewhere he is sitting back, proud of that final statement by Pagliuca. Russell had an undying relentlessness about two things in life: basketball and civil rights. Both of those agendas will be commemorated at City Hall Plaza for the millions of people who will pass by his statue beginning in the spring of 2012.