Finding a new home for Mountain Man sculpture

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Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Laurina “Laura” M. Harper (right) recently gifted the Southwest Public Libraries with a rare work of art: a limited edition cast of Frederic Remington’s iconic sculpture Mountain Man. Harper, a benefactor of the library and the president emeritus of the Friends of SPL, donated the 28-inch tall silver sculpture that depicts a buckskin-clad trapper descending a steep slope on horseback to honor the work of retired director Mark Shaw (left) and retired assistant director Bethanne Gibboney Johnson (middle). At the public dedication, which was held at the Grove City Library on Dec. 11, Harper said Shaw and Gibboney Johnson represent those brave men and women of the past, those who were willing to sacrifice to make life better for generations to come. She cited their leadership during state funding cuts to public libraries, multiple levy failures, and ultimately the new build and remodeling of the Grove City Library and the Westland Area Library, respectively. “What they went through wasn’t easy,” said Harper, “but they persevered much to the benefit of all of us today.”
A closer look at Mountain Man.

Southwest Public Libraries (SPL) has accepted the gift of a limited edition cast of Frederic Remington’s iconic sculpture Mountain Man and held a public dedication ceremony on Dec. 11 at the Grove City Library, hosted by the Friends of SPL.

Cast in pure silver, the sculpture depicts a buckskin-clad trapper descending a steep slope on horseback and is characterized by Remington’s hallmark attention to textures and detail. It was issued by the Frederic Remington Museum of Art and Liberty Mint in 1994 and will be on permanent display at the library in a custom case sponsored by the Friends of SPL.

Long-time SPL benefactor and Friends President Emeritus Laurina “Laura” Harper gifted the sculpture in honor of former SPL Director Mark Shaw and former Grove City Library Assistant Director Bethanne Gibboney Johnson, who both retired in recent months, each after more than 35 years of dedication to the library.

Harper has displayed Mountain Man in her home for over 25 years until now.

“I’m coming down the other side of the mountain of my life, and I knew I needed to find it a new home,” she said. “I wanted to find a place where it could be seen by many and enjoyed by many and to honor Mark and Bethanne because they did so much to bring the Grove City Library to where it is today.”

Harper and her late husband, John’s ties to SPL run deep. John’s aunt, Irene Harper, was SPL’s first librarian, serving from 1924 to 1934. Laura established the Harper Scholarship for staff continuing higher education in the library field and sponsored the early literacy area at the new Grove City Library in John and Irene’s honor. The library named the area “Harper’s Grove.”

Harper and Shaw have shared a friendship since first meeting when Shaw started at SPL in 1986, and Harper was active in the Friends. Shaw served first as treasurer, then as operations manager, and finally as director from 2002 until his retirement in January 2021.

Under his tenure, SPL weathered several economic downturns, passed its first-ever successful levy, constructed the new Grove City Library, and expanded the Westland Area Library.

“There were a couple of serious financial crises during my first 10 years as director, and Laura would frequently stop by my office to encourage me to keep fighting on,” said Shaw. “We talked often of her plan to donate money to the Grove City Library for something special, and even though a new Grove City Library seemed like an unattainable dream during those dreary years, Laura never lost hope or her vision of how to make the Grove City Library special.”

Johnson joined SPL in 1985 as a reference assistant, later becoming the head of Reference and Adult Services at Grove City, and finally assistant director at Grove City in 2015. Johnson retired in the fall of 2020. She, like Harper and Shaw, firmly believes libraries are more than just books.

“Libraries are only incidentally about books and materials. Libraries are really about people – the people who need, love, and support them and those who work in them,” said Johnson.

Frederic Remington

Frederic Remington (1861–1909) was an American painter, sculptor, illustrator, and author well-known for his depictions of the American Old West.

His subject matter offered a nostalgic, even mythic, look at a rapidly disappearing western frontier, and he enjoyed high popularity and commercial success during his lifetime (metmuseum.org). His works continue to be popular today. A museum of his art is located in Ogdensburg, New York.

Friends of Southwest Public Libraries

The Friends of Southwest Public Libraries is a non-profit organization that supports the mission of Southwest Public Libraries through conducting fundraising, volunteer work, and public awareness efforts in the community on behalf of the library. Connect with the Friends through their website friendsofswpl.org or Facebook page.

Southwest Public Libraries

Southwest Public Libraries serves southwest Franklin county and surrounding areas through its two branches, Grove City Library and Westland Area Library. The library system provides access to millions of items through a consortium partnership with 17 central Ohio libraries and is currently offering an array of both in-building and no-contact services to serve the community safely and innovatively.

Visit www.swpl.org for more information or connect with SPL on social media: Facebook @SPLFranklinCountyOH and Instagram @southwestpl.

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