Korczak Ziolkowski

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Korczak Ziolkowski
Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, kz henry 48.jpg
Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear circa June 3, 1948
Birth name Korczak Ziółkowski
Born September 6, 1908
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 20, 1982
Black Hills, South Dakota, U.S.
Spouse Ruth Ross (19??–1982; his death); 10 children
Nationality United States
Field Sculptor
Works Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore Memorial
Website Korczak - Storyteller in Stone

Korczak Ziolkowski (Polish: Korczak Ziółkowski; September 6, 1908 – October 20, 1982) was the American designer and sculptor of Crazy Horse Memorial.

Early life[edit]

Ziolkowski, was born on September 6, 1908, in Boston. Both of his parents were Polish. Orphaned at the age of one, he grew up in a series of foster homes. Although he never received any formal art training, his gifts as a sculptor began to show at an early age. After putting himself through Rindge Technical School, he became an apprentice to a Boston ship maker. He began to carve wood and by the age of 20 had become an accomplished furniture maker. His first marble sculpture, made in 1932, honored Judge Frederick Pickering Cabot who had inspired him as a child growing up in the rough neighborhoods of Boston.[citation needed]

Ziolkowski moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, to begin life as a professional artist. He began to sell commissioned sculpture throughout New England, Boston, and New York. In 1939, he assisted Gutzon Borglum in the carving of the Mt. Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota's Black Hills, near Keystone.[citation needed]

Crazy Horse Memorial[edit]

In 1939 Ziolkowski's marble sculpture of Ignacy Jan Paderewski won first prize at the New York World's Fair. The fame as well as his familiarity with the Black Hills prompted several Lakota Chiefs to approach him about a monument honoring Native Americans[citation needed]. Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Lakota wrote him, saying, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too."[citation needed]

Ziolkowski met with the leaders shortly afterward and began planning a monument. Over the next few years, he conducted research and began planning the sculpture. He also met Ruth Ross, a young art enthusiast, who would later become his second wife.

Ziolkowski put the project on hold when the United States entered World War II. He volunteered for service in the United States Army and was wounded in 1944 at Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France.

In 1947 Ziolkowski moved to the Black Hills, and began to search for a suitable mountain for his sculpture. Korczak thought the Wyoming Tetons would be the best choice, where the rock would be better for carving, but the Lakota wanted the memorial in the sacred Black Hills on a 600-foot (180 m)-high mountain. The monument was to be the largest sculpture in the world. When completed, it would be 563 feet (172 m) high by 641 feet (195 m) long. Crazy Horse's head would be large enough to contain all the 60-foot (18 m)-high heads of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore.

On June 3, 1948, the first blast was made, and the memorial was dedicated to the Native American people. In 1950 Ziolkowski and Ruth Ross, who had become a volunteer at the monument, were married. Work continued slowly, since he refused to accept government grants. He raised money for the project by charging admission to the monument work area.[citation needed]

Last years/death[edit]

Ziolkowski continued his work until he died of acute pancreatitis at age 73 at the monument site in 1982. He was buried in a tomb at the base of the mountain. After his death, his widow, Ruth, took over the project as director of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Seven of his ten children have continued the carving of the monument or are active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.[citation needed]

See also[edit]