The Emigrant

public sculpture
Image of The Emigrant sculpture installed.

The Plow Blade. The plow blade is the “Emigrant.” We named it “The Emigrant” after learning about an actual plow blade built in this area with that name. Currently the main degradation of this Midwest soil is, arguably, the “urban sprawl” that is surrounding small farm communities like Sycamore. So it seemed fitting to name it something that dealt with the migration of people to this town, and had a historical tie to the area. The shape is an abstract of both a plow shape and the shape of a wave. Symbolizing the wave of new people, new technology that is developing Sycamore.


The Prairie Grass. Honestly, I don’t ever need to make another blade of prairie grass for as long as I live. I’m sure Andy feels the same way. Good old mother nature sure does have her hands full. When I designed this project, I planned to plant the real stuff, but Andy wouldn’t have that. He was going to make each blade by hand, and that he did. Unfortunately I had to help him, and for the seven months between October 1997 and May 1998, that’s all we did. I have a great deal more respect for a blade of prairie grass. Maybe this is how to restore the native, natural prairie habitat. If we could make “get rich quick” developers try to build a field of copper prairie grass, they might think twice before they bulldoze their way to another $million$.


The Arrowhead. Warren Pearson had a farm on the north side of Sycamore. Each year, the Boy Scouts would have a campout in his woods. I remember waking up early on the second day of the campout in order to look for arrowheads that were being uncovered by Warren’s plow. I never found one, but many others did. There were plenty to find, and probably still are. This made quite an impression on me. I always wondered what happened to all those Indians. I guess I assumed that they just got old and died. It’s unfortunate, what really happened to them. A lot of excuses can be made. None are valid. The European settlers took their land and killed them off. I sometimes wonder what our sons and daughters are going to say about what we’re doing to their land. We’re killing the land. I wish those Indians were still around to teach us a thing or two. The arrowheads are their ghosts. Every time we turn the soil and find an arrowhead, we are reminded of their story.


The Agriculture. I’ve never had to work very hard for food in my life, but I’ve hoed a row (a long one) in the hot June sun. I’ve worked on pig farms, sheep farms, and once tried to milk a cow. I’m a lifetime member of the Future Farmers of America. It’s a pride thing. It’s a “cycle of life” thing. Right now the Midwest is helping feed the world and we have food to spare, but that plow blade is coming and it’s going to turn us under.


Now on to the workers… Andy and I teamed up with this guy named Etienne Bellan Huchery. He is a Frenchman. He spent the 1997-98 school year studying at NIU. Andy and I knew him from high school. He was more than happy to help out, and more. He’s also responsible for the photos and the video – we kept him busy. We’ll miss him when he goes back to France. Then there’s Russ Josh. I don’t think I’m qualified to explain Russ to the average reader. He is like a father to us. He provided us with everything we needed, and takes good care of our rooster. Andy’s brother Jamie proved to be invaluable to us in the final stages of production – he got us over the hill. Finally there’s Andy’s cousin Ben. He kept us in good company.


This is either the start of something big or the end of it. We were lucky to have had this opportunity. “The Emigrant” cost us a lot of money. We never took any donations other than help and the use of equipment. We spent three times as much as the library could afford to give us. It was worth it, although, I could never do it again. I just hope someone understands our message and finds the courage to do something about it.


Bart Bridger Woodstrup
May 11,1998