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WIU Associate Professor Duke Oursler (Photos courtesy of the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau).
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Lincoln Topiary Statue to be Unveiled Downtown Aug. 29

August 24, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University professor is putting the finishing touches on an historical addition to downtown Macomb, which will be unveiled Saturday, Aug. 29.

WIU Associate Professor Duke Oursler is working on seating a 15-foot concrete bust of President Abraham Lincoln, with a steel top hat and a topiary beard that will bloom twice each year. The sculpture is on the front lawn of Macomb's city hall and was created by Oursler and his artist friend, Marc Moulton, of Statesboro, GA.

"Creating public art has been one of the joys of my life," said Oursler. "Making public art is something that brings folks together to share in our human experiences. Making a sculpture of President Lincoln, whose impact on our country is evermore relevant as we navigate these trying times, has provided me the opportunity to understand my role as an artist and the role of art and creativity in our society. I am hopeful that this sculpture will create a sense of wonder, interest and curiosity, and will be a source of pride and unity for our community."

The sculpture was originally scheduled for an April unveiling, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $32,000 concrete and steel statue was paid for by a grant from Macomb's Noon Rotary Club to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. The project is also being helped by Macomb's Centennial Rotary Club and Macomb Beautiful.

Because of the pandemic, the sculpture's 10 a.m. dedication and unveiling will be limited to invited guests, who will wear masks and socially distance. The ceremony will also be live-streamed at

The hope is that the new sculpture, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world and highlights Lincoln's Macomb connections, will attract additional visitors to the city. Lincoln visited Macomb twice in the 1850s, both times to prepare for his debates with Senator Stephen Douglas. While he was in town, Lincoln did not have a beard on either visit, a physical feature that he didn't display until he became president.

The project began when WIU alumnus and Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (MACVB) Executive Director Jock Hedblade began talking with Oursler about adding something Lincoln-related to the downtown area as part of Macomb's application to be a Looking for Lincoln community.

"This unusual and creative design element will reflect Lincoln's change from the clean-shaven Senate candidate, who was photographed in Macomb in 1858, to the distinguished, bearded president who saved the Union, which is an important part of Macomb's Lincoln story that many have never known," said Hedblade.

The Lincoln statue was created using a 3D printing process with concrete.

The project is managed by MACVB's Visit Unforgettable Forgottonia office and regular maintenance at the site will be done by Macomb's Centennial Morning Rotary Club and Macomb Beautiful. It is part of a three-phase permanent attraction initiative, which include murals placed around the community and other projects.

Organizers are working with Sweet Briar Corner Market, near Roseville, IL, to choose the best flowers and greenery to fill out the beard. The statue has an internal irrigation system to keep it hydrated.
During his nine years teaching at WIU, Oursler has not been a stranger to creating artistic spaces in Macomb. Several of his sculptures are placed around Macomb, he led the project to display outdoor sculptures in and around the city square and is part of the Rocky on Parade project, which brought 84 artistic, concrete "Rocky" statues to Macomb and the Quad Cites, and raised money for art scholarships at WIU.

For more information about the statue, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing