A lone sentinel standing resolutely against the elements as its gaze sweeps across the former land of the Cherokees, sculptor Peter Toth’s statue “Cherokee Chieftain” stands tall even though it has long endured heat and humidity, sleet and snow, wind and rain, as well as the threat of burrowing insects. But the wooden statue’s maker has arrived in Cleveland to refurbish the wood sculpture.
By TIM SINIARD
A lone sentinel standing resolutely against the elements as its gaze sweeps across the former land of the Cherokees, sculptor Peter Toth’s “Cherokee Chieftain” stands tall even though it has long endured heat and humidity, sleet and snow, wind and rain, as well as the threat of burrowing insects.
But the wooden sculpture’s creator has arrived in Cleveland to refurbish his work.
Toth, who resides in Florida, is here to work on restoring the statue he sculpted in 1973. Toth carved it to recognize injustices Native Americans have suffered.
“I did it because it honors them,” Toth said. “They are whispering giants.”
The statue is located in front of the Museum Center at Five Points on Inman Street.
Toth, who has also carved Native American works in all 50 states, as well as in other countries, is restoring the carving at the request of city leaders concerned about its exposure to the elements. He said the wood sculpture is in good shape, and he is working to make it last for many more years.
“It’s very sturdy,” said Toth who is treating the sculpture with a liquid solution that will protect it from fungi, as well as termites. “It works well with wood. It’s also good for wood that is oxidized and bleached.”
According to an article published previously in the Cleveland Daily Banner, Toth’s statue was carved from a huge tree that existed on property owned by Bob Card, a Cleveland businessman and community leader. The sculpture was eventually displayed in front of the historic Craigmiles House, where the Johnston-Tucker Center of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library is located. The Chieftan was later relocated to Johnston Park before it was moved to its current location in front of the Museum Center.
The statue has undergone previous restorations, but it has been several years since such work was last performed. Toth said he expects to be in Cleveland through June when the statue is rededicated sometime mid-month.
Janice Neyman, executive director for the museum said she is excited Toth has returned to Cleveland to refurbish his statue.
“We are absolutely thrilled he is here,” Neyman said. “It’s an honor to have him back here with us.”
Much discussion has taken place regarding the best location for the statue, with some advocating that the sculpture be moved indoors at the Museum Center to permanently protect it from from further weather damage. There has also been discussion about covering the statue with a roof-type structure. Toth said moving the statue out of the elements would make it last indefinitely, but he preferred a different solution.
“It would be best if it were moved inside, but I like for the sculptures to be outside, so people can see them and be aware of the plight of Native Americans,” Toth said.
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