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MU Faculty Member Chosen to Sculpt History

Nov. 17, 2008

Story Contact:  Jeffrey Beeson, (573) 882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation selection committee believed just that when choosing J Brett Grill to create a 7-foot, bronze, full-body sculpture to honor the 38th president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. Grill, an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Science, teaches painting and drawing at the University of Missouri.

The monument will become part of the National Statuary Collection in Washington, D.C. Annually approximately 3 million to 5 million people visit the historic building, which displays more than two centuries of sculpture, paintings and murals.

Fewer than 15 sculptors in the country received requests to submit models for consideration, and Grill was the youngest of the three finalists this past summer. Growing up in Ford’s home state of Michigan, Grill prepared to make the sculpture by reading biographies of Ford, viewing archival videos, examining hundreds of photographs of the former president, and making more than 25 small-scale clay models.

Grill said that everything he read about Ford suggested leadership balanced with humility, and that is what he attempted to portray in the pose. Grill decided on a pose where Ford stands with his right hand grasping the front of his suit jacket and his left carrying files, wearing a classic suit and vest from 1976. 

“The sculpture allows me to think about the history the Capitol is trying to tell, and it’s flattering to be involved in telling that story,” Grill said. “Those works of art are going to be there much longer than I’m alive. It’s nice to be a part of something that will outlive you.”

Several maquettes, quarter scale models, of Grill’s sculpture will be produced for the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.; the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and for members and friends of the Ford family. Additionally, a bust of Ford created by Grill was installed this summer at the Boys and Girls Club in Palm Desert, Calif., the city where Ford retired.