Glenna Goodacre’s Polioplus. (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 highly unusual for public art and more typical for a museum.

Titled Polioplus, the sculpture, which was installed in 1991 in front of Rotary International 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, “The monument was made possible by the creativity, time and talent of the artist Glenna Goodacre.”

The sculpture is a traditional grouping, one that might remind us of a Norman Rockwell illustration, with a boy and a girl looking admiringly at a kindly physician as he cradles a baby in his arms, administering the polio vaccine. The figures are slightly larger than life size.

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

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

Goodacre, a Texas-born American artist, worked out of 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 few women creating large, commemorative sculptures. Early in her career, she signed her work “G. Goodacre” out of concern that people would not buy art made by a woman.

Her works, including paintings, have been exhibited across the United States and are in collections in more than 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 survivors of the Irish potato famine 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-high bronze Reagan is shown in casual wear – jeans, denim jacket and cowboy boots, with Stetson hat in hand.

Goodacre’s work also appears on the Sacagawea Golden Dollar coin, which bears a 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’s not really made of gold; it has an outer layer of manganese brass, giving it its golden color.

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a series about Evanston public art created by women. For the third article, click here.

Gay Riseborough is an artist, has served the City of Evanston for 11 years on arts committees, and is now an arts writer at the Evanston RoundTable.

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