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World War I monument to be unveiled across from White House this fall: 'Sacred art'

A 60-foot-long, bronze WWI monument will take form in Washington, D.C.'s Pershing Park. Master sculptor Sabin Howard reveals his creative process and what the work means for America's heroes.

A valiant nod to America's military heroes is soon to be seen in Washington, D.C.

A WWI monument called "A Soldier’s Journey" will be unveiled in Pershing Park on Sept. 13, 2024, and will serve as the centerpiece of the National World War I Memorial in the nation's capital.

The sprawling bronze sculpture, which measures about 60 feet long, depicts the heroic journey of a soldier — from the time he leaves home for war until he finally returns.

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Fox News Digital spoke to master sculptor Sabin Howard, who took the lead on the project, about his artwork. He said it’s been a nine-year creative process.

Architect Joseph Weishaar, who lives in Washington, D.C., was just 25 years old when he won the opportunity to design the memorial through a blind, global competition against 350 other design teams in 2016 — and appointed Howard to sculpt it. 

The Bronx-born artist, who had been sculpting for 35 years at that time, said he had an "epic" vision for the project.

"The way I saw this project from the beginning, I wanted to make something that was at the level of the Sistine Chapel and great works of art that were in the Italian Renaissance," he said. 

"I wanted to play forward that concept of sacred art at an epic level."

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When Howard first came up with the design iteration, he started by taking 12,000 images of models dressed in uniforms that were worn in battle.

"Some of the uniforms had photographs of family members in the pockets, and [the models] wore those same uniforms," he said. "The nurses had uniforms that I borrowed from the Smithsonian Museum."

By 2017, Howard had spent 700 hours completing the drawing of the soldier’s journey, which he described as the "story of a soldier, a father, and an allegory for the United States that is the hero's journey."

He added, "It is the story of the soldier who leaves his family and enters into the brotherhood of arms, and then leads his men through battle, only to be shell-shocked at the cost of war that follows."

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Upon this soldier’s return home, Howard identified him as the "final figure to hand his daughter his helmet, and she is the next generation of World War II."

The sculptor said he considers his work to be a "movie in bronze" that can be followed from left to right as onlookers walk by.

After submitting a 10-foot sculpted model, Howard received the green light to move forward with his vision in May 2019.

Howard and his team spent the next four years sculpting the memorial to scale at a studio in Englewood, New Jersey, working traditionally with models dressed in uniforms.

"I go back to working the way people worked in the Renaissance, with clay and tools," he said. "As an artist, I work with my hands, my head and my heart. And that is what differentiates me from being a technician."

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Howard also said, "There's a very clear message behind this sculpture. It's very much about being human."

The sculptor also used veterans, Marines and Navy SEALs — all of whom had experienced shell shock — as models.

"So, the expressions on their faces and the emotions that they carry within their bodies are on that wall," he said. 

"The sculpture is to commemorate the 116,000 U.S. soldiers who died in World War I, but it is also a universal story that … the veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam or Korea will see as their story. And I think this is something that has never been done before."

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The bronze casting of the entire piece will take place at a foundry in the U.K. and is expected to be finished by June.

"This has been a highly inventive achievement on so many levels," Howard said.

It has also been a personal achievement for Howard, who said he had been a "struggling artist" in the South Bronx since he was 19 years old, without receiving much recognition.

Now, the Howard-sculpted WWI Memorial is worth $12 million in raised funds.

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"This is like the American dream … You go from the South Bronx to across the street from the White House," he said.

While there were some "corporate" boundaries set by D.C. on this project, Howard said he decided to do what he knows best and "make art."

"I stuck to my guns," he said. "It's a throwback to traditionalism. It's a completely rebellious act." 

"It's going back and using a traditional sacred art form to speak about the sacredness of humanity, this country, its citizens, and especially the soldiers who went overseas to protect the freedoms of the United States," Howard added.

The sculptor described the project as a service that is "way bigger" than himself, with the intention of gifting it to "We the People."

"The reception has been a huge embrace from the public, because it's for them," he added.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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