'Softening' of King statue is planned

From the Associated Press

The centerpiece for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall has drawn criticism from a federal arts panel, which says the proposed statue looks "confrontational" and resembles the head of a socialist state more than a civil rights leader.

Models of the 28-foot-tall statue depict King emerging from a chunk of granite, his arms folded in front of his chest, his legs firmly rooted, an intense gaze on his face.

But the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which reviews the design of projects in the capital area, said the design should be reworked to reflect a more sympathetic rendering of King.

Members thought "the proposed treatment of the sculpture -- as the most iconographic and central element of the memorial to Dr. King -- would be unfortunate and inappropriate as an expression of his legacy," wrote Thomas Luebke, commission secretary, in an April 25 letter to the National Park Service and the foundation that is planning the King memorial.

Harry E. Johnson Sr., president of the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial, said a new design would be submitted June 15 with a "softening of Dr. King." His facial expression, for example, will be changed.

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