To the ‘children of the world’: Glenna Goodacre’s sculpture celebrates Rotary’s battle against polio

Polioplus by Glenna Goodacre. (Photo by Gay Riseborough)

At One Rotary Center in downtown Evanston stands a figurative sculpture by well-known artist Glenna Maxey Goodacre (1939-2020). Not one but two plaques accompany the statue, which is very unusual for public art and more typical for a museum.

Titled Polioplus, the sculpture, which was installed in 1991 in front of Rotary International’s world headquarters at 1560 Sherman Ave., was a private gift to Rotary International and dedicated by Rotary to “the children of the world.” The second plaque begins with “The monument was made possible through the creativity, time and talent of artist Glenna Goodacre.”

The sculpture is a traditional grouping, which might remind us of a Norman Rockwell illustration, with a boy and girl gazing in awe at a caring doctor as he cradles a baby in his arms, administering the polio vaccine. Figures are slightly larger than life.

The sculpture takes its name from “PolioPlus,” the title of Rotary’s most notable global project: the eradication of poliomyelitis. It is made in the coarsely textured style used by the great sculptor Rodin.

Rotary, a global service organization, is justifiably proud of its great achievement in reducing polio cases worldwide by 99.9% through its global support of polio vaccine and partner programs. Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The program was launched in 1985 and today Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries where “wild” polio remains endemic.

Goodacre, an American artist born in Texas, worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She graduated from Colorado College and studied at the Art Students League of New York, beginning as a painter. At the time, she was one of the few women to create large commemorative sculptures. Early in her career, she signed her work “G. Goodacre” out of fear that people would buy art made by a woman.

His works, including paintings, have been exhibited across the United States and are in collections in over 40 countries. Her best-known public artwork is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In 1997, Goodacre won an international competition to create the Irish Memorial at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, an ambitious group of 35 life-size figures documenting the immigration of Irish Potato Famine survivors to the United States.

Goodacre’s other large-scale public monuments in bronze include After the ride, a larger-than-life statue of Ronald Reagan installed in 1998 at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The 8-foot-tall bronze Reagan is shown in casual clothes – jeans, denim jacket and cowboy boots, with a Stetson hat in hand.

Goodacre’s work also appears on the Sacagawea Golden Dollar coin, which bears the portrait of a young Native American woman. The coin was introduced in 2000 and issued between 2000 and 2008. Despite its name and appearance, it is not really Golden; it has an outer layer of manganese brass, giving it its golden color.

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