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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Freedom of the Human Spirit map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Freedom of the Human Spirit, a massive bronze statue depicting a male and a female nude with wild swans soaring skyward, was sculpted by Marshall Fredericks (1908–1998) for the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65. The artist made a second casting of the 28-foot tall sculpture in 1986, and it was installed in Birmingham, Michigan.

The New York World’s Fair Corporation, under the direction of former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888–1981), established a Committee on Sculpture to select sculptors whose work ranged “from contemporary conservative to the more conservative avant-garde” in 1961. The committee arrived at a short list of ten recommended sculptors after much deliberation. Ultimately, they commissioned five sculptors to create pieces expected to outlast the Fair, including Marshall Fredericks, Paul Manship (1885–1966), Theodore Roszak (1907–1981), Jose de Rivera (1904–1985), and Donald De Lue (1897–1988).

Fredericks was born on January 31, 1908, in Rock Island, Illinois. He studied at the John Huntington Polytechnic Institute, then graduated in 1930 from the Cleveland School of Art. He later traveled extensively in Europe, studying in several countries. Among his instructors was the well-known Swedish sculptor Carl Milles (1875–1955), who probably influenced Frederick’s stylized realism. Milles created the central sculpture, The Astronomer, for the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40 at Flushing Meadows; Fredericks also contributed temporary sculptures to that earlier fair.

Fredericks joined the faculty of the Cleveland School of Art in 1931, and then taught from 1932 to 1942 at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Fredericks left teaching to enter the armed forces during World War II, and served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Pacific and Far East. After the war, Fredericks was frequently in demand for public and private commissions. Some of his major works include the Thinker at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden, and Man and the Expanding Universe, a fountain in front of the State Department in Washington, DC. He created hundreds of sculptures, many monumental in size, including monuments for Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan and President John F. Kennedy at Mount Clemens, Michigan.

In addition to his career as a sculptor, Fredericks was active in public life at home and abroad. The Scandinavian-American received royal honors from King Frederik IX and Queen Margrethe of Denmark, King Olav V of Norway, and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. He served as Royal Danish Consul for Michigan from 1965 to 1995. He has received awards from the American Institute of Architects, the Architectural League of New York, the Michigan Academy of Science, the National Sculpture Society, the Michigan Association of the Professions, and the American Academy of Achievement among others. He has received citations from organizations such as the National Society of Crippled Children and Adults, the People-to-People Committee for the Handicapped, Vanfore Foreningen, the National Association for Retarded Children, and the Statens Institute for the Blind. The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Gallery at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan currently houses over two hundred of his sculptures and provides visitors with information about the life of this great artist and humanitarian.

About this piece, Fredericks commented, “I realized that great multitudes of people, of all ages, and from all walks of life would see this sculpture…I tried to design the work so that it was as free of the earth, as free in space as possible…the thought that we can free ourselves from earth, from the material forces which try to restrain and hamper us, is a happy, encouraging and inspiring one, and I sincerely hope that my work will convey this message.” The sculpture manifests one of the central themes of that fair—space exploration—like the Rocket Thrower statue, the Court of Astronauts, Fountain of the Planets, Space Park and the Unisphere.

At the fairgrounds, the sculpture stood in what was known as the Court of States. In 1996, the construction of a redesigned United States Tennis Center and renovation of the park’s core area caused the statue’s relocation to a site near the Unisphere. At the same time, the statue was conserved in consultation with the artist. Workers chemically repatined its bronze surface to restore its original pale, aquamarine hue.

Photo of the Freedom of the Human Spirit Sculpture, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens

Freedom of the Human Spirit Details

  • Sculptor: Marshall Fredericks
  • Description: Group of two upright figures (heroic scale), one male,one female, supported by three swans in flight, attached to upright spikes, on a circular pedestal
  • Materials: Bronze, pink granite
  • Dimensions: Group H: 20' W" 9'10" D: 9'10"; Pedestal H: 2' 2 1/4" Diameter: 10'6"
  • Cast: ca. 1964
  • Dedicated: 1964
  • Foundry: Bedi-Makky Art Foundry, New York
  • Inscription: Founder's mark on work: BEDI-MAKKY ART FOUNDRY, N.Y.

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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