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Brooklyn art studio creates sculpture of JFK for Kennedy Center

Sunset Park's StudioEIS specializes in historic figures

November 19, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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StudioEIS, a Brooklyn-based, family-run sculpture and design studio that has specialized in historical sculptures for more than four decades, will soon unveil its latest creation: a bronze sculpture of the likeness of President John F. Kennedy. 

Commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and underwritten by Center Chairperson David M. Rubenstein in honor of its namesake, the sculpture is a part of the year-long 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the nation’s performing arts center. The 81-inch, 660-pound sculpture will be located outdoors in the lower gardens of the campus and be accessible to all visitors at the Kennedy Center complex.

A private unveiling is scheduled for the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2021, during the Kennedy Center Honors weekend.

“President Kennedy’s immense vitality and dedication to the arts have inspired the Kennedy Center’s programs since it opened 50 years ago as a living memorial to the youthful President,” said David M. Rubenstein. “What better way to embody those values than with a naturalistic sculpture of this remarkable leader, reminding us all of his forceful presence, which helped reshape our world? “

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StudioEIS, located in Sunset Park, is perhaps best known for capturing the likeness of important historical figures such as Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln on the steps of the New-York Historical Society in New York City, and the 42 bronze sculptures of the signers of the U.S. Constitution at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. 

Ivan Schwartz, the founder and director of StudioEIS in Brooklyn Photo courtesy of StudioEIS

The studio’s team acts as “historical detectives” to accurately evoke these luminaries of the past, capturing their personas through the investigation of archival material, such as measurements of personal articles of clothing, anecdotal and historical descriptions, and close study of all photographic records.

 This project presented a different challenge: Kennedy was a mass-media friendly president, extensively photographed and filmed, creating a strong “popular memory” in the nation’s collective mind. 

“Our personal and political lives have never been more entwined than they are right now than in this area of public sculpting, which has always been my personal passione d’amore,” said Ivan Schwartz, co-founder of StudioEIS. “Although it tested our skills, there was deep satisfaction in creating this new Kennedy sculpture.”

Elliot Schwartz, co-founder of StudioEIS in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of StudioEIS

Working closely with the Kennedy Center to make critical artistic decisions, StudioEIS wanted to evoke an image of President Kennedy that is full of energy and very approachable. 

After finalizing the initial design of the figure, the complex and labor-intensive process of creating a bronze sculpture began. StudioEIS sculptors created the prototype, hand-sculpting the original piece in clay for several months in the Brooklyn studio, which was then used to create a hollow wax mold. 

At the UAP Foundry in upstate New York, molten bronze filled the mold and solidified inside as it cooled, then the mold was broken away to reveal the metal sculpture. Hand-finishing, cleaning, and patination were the final stages of a lengthy process that took a year to complete.

Since 1976, StudioEIS has combined its love for American history and its extraordinary sculpting skills to create an astonishing body of work that tells a 400-year story of American history. It was co-founded by brothers Ivan and Elliot Schwartz, the Brooklyn-based team includes sculptors, costume experts, historians, foundry partners, and other specialists. 

Notable commissions include work created for the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC; the Maryland State House, Annapolis, MD; the Virginia Women’s Monument, Richmond, VA; the National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA; and more.

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