Reagan statue in waxing process

A local artist has finished sculpting a Ronald Reagan statue, which will go up in a Newport Beach park by year's end.

Miriam Baker's statue of the 40th president has been fully modeled in clay, and is now in the waxing process. After a wax mold is made, the statue will be cast in bronze.

It is slated to be dedicated in Bonita Canyon Sports Park, 1990 Ford Road, before the end of the year to honor the centennial of Reagan's birth.

The proposal to erect the statue stirred a public debate over whether and how to honor the Republican Party icon, who was born Feb. 6, 1911, in Tampico, Ill. Some residents opposed putting what they saw as a partisan statue on public grounds while others argued that Reagan's popularity transcended party lines.

Despite the controversy, Baker said she has gotten only positive reactions from city officials and friends. She said her biggest hope for the statue is that former first lady Nancy Reagan will visit it and like it.

The City Council voted 5 to 2 in February to place the statue in a city park, rather than in the originally proposed Civic Center. The project was funded by donations. Councilman Keith Curry, who first proposed making the statue, also led the effort to commission it.

Curry said in an email Monday that he was "very pleased" with the design. City Manager Dave Kiff, who chose Baker from among about a dozen artists, said the clay statue is "a remarkable likeness" of Reagan.

Baker, who has lived and worked on Balboa Island for about 15 years, said the project will cost about $30,000 for the materials and foundry, and the city is paying her about $50,000, which was raised through private donations. She said it's "not a money-making thing" for her.

This clarifies how the statue was funded. The $50,000 was raised through private donations; it's not city money.

"I did it because I wanted a sculpture in the city where I live," she said.

The life-size statue portrays Reagan smiling and waving.

Baker said she studied more than 50 photos of Reagan to get his face just right. She also hired a model to pose while she sculpted the body.

This is not the first time Baker has sculpted Reagan: She also has a bust of Reagan on display at Chapman University in Orange.

Her work has been showcased at the National Portrait Gallery and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, according to her website.

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