Johnny Appleseed statue unveiled at new downtown hotel

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ADAMS) – Fort Wayne’s latest public art display is a nod to one of Fort Wayne’s most famous historical residents, John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. The “Making Children Smile” statue features Johnny Appleseed seated on a bench with a shiny red apple in his outstretched hand. The statue is designed to be interactive, with an open seat where admirers can join alongside the American icon.

White Lodging, along with Mayor Henry, other city officials and Michael Thena of the Johnny Appleseed Festival, today unveiled the statue along West Jefferson Boulevard, just outside the new Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Wayne Downtown and across the street from the Grand Wayne Convention Center.

The statue is the second public art piece reviewed and installed as part of the City of Fort Wayne’s Public Art Program. The program was established in March 2018 and seeks to enhance the visual environment and strengthen the positive reputation of Fort Wayne.

“We’re honored to welcome Johnny Appleseed’s Making Children Smile statue to our growing program,” said Fort Wayne Public Art Commission Chair Nancy Stewart. “Our goal for the program is to promote distinctive and diverse artwork that communicates the community’s sense of spirit, identity and pride. We thank White Lodging for commissioning a wonderful addition to the city.”

“The city of Fort Wayne has been great to White Lodging and we wanted to give something back that could be enjoyed by all in the vibrant area of downtown,” said Deno Yiankes, president and CEO, investments and development at White Lodging. The project has been fun to work on and truly celebrates Johnny Appleseed’s legacy and spirit in Fort Wayne.”

Johnny Appleseed Statue Commission

White Lodging commissioned Rotblatt-Amrany Studio of Timeless Creations, Inc., based in Highwood, Illinois, with Gary Tillery as the lead artist on the project. Weighing nearly 400 pounds, the statue is crafted in traditional silicon bronze and took nearly ten months from concept to installation. Other statue works by the studio include Ernie Banks for the Chicago Cubs, Michael Jordan for the Chicago Bulls and several pieces for the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, and the Munster (Indiana) Community Veterans Memorial.

“Creating the face was a special challenge,” said Gary Tillery. “No paintings or photos exist of Johnny Appleseed. I worked from a painting done many years after he died, based on memories of him. Since the painting was a profile, I had to imagine and recreate how he looked from the front.”

White Lodging and Tillery worked with Urbana University’s Johnny Appleseed Museum and the Johnny Appleseed Festival to ensure the most accurate historical representation of Johnny.

“The Johnny Appleseed Festival is humbled and excited to be included in part of the design and vision of this new statue,” said Becky Butler, director of administration for the Johnny Appleseed Festival. “Johnny Appleseed has always held a special place in our community; from cherishing his values to this day to celebrating his life with a festival. The statue is a wonderful addition to honoring his kind nature and leadership in conservation.”