A new collection of bronze sculptures in downtown Monroeville celebrates some of our country’s most famous writers whose roots originate in this historical area of southwest Alabama.
The Literary Capital Sculpture Trail unveiled Friday afternoon features 14 bronze sculptures created by University of Alabama sculpture students that are on display within a short walk of each other around the Monroe County Courthouse Museum.
“We have a legacy here and we want people to know what that is,” said Anne Marie Bryan, executive director of Monroeville Main Street. “These sculptures honor the 10 authors who made Monroeville and Monroe County Alabama’s Literary Capital.”
The trail honors 10 writers from Monroeville: Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Cynthia Tucker, Mark Childress, Marva Collins, Rheta Grimsley-Johnson, Riley Kelly, Mike Stewart, William Barret Travis and Hank Williams. Of those 10, three won Pulitzer Prizes: Harper Lee, Cynthia Tucker and Hank Williams. Bryan said the exhibit was created to provide arts and culture for the community, something of interest for tourists and to inspire and educate the children of Monroe County.
“We wanted to provide that inspiration that you can be a poet, a journalist, a novelist, a short story writer or even an artist and follow a creative passion,” she said.
The trail unveiling was planned to coincide with the Alabama Bicentennial celebration and this year’s Alabama Writers Symposium, which was held Thursday and Friday in Monroeville. Alisha Linam, director of the symposium, said the goal is to celebrate Alabama’s writers.
“Our names are known throughout the world,” Linam said. “We’re known for creating and developing good authors.”
Several of those Alabama authors were honored at this year’s symposium, including Daniel Wallace and B.J. Hollars. Wallace, author of five novels — including “Big Fish,” which was later made into a motion picture and a musical on Broadway — was honored with the 2019 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer, while Hollars, author of several books, including “The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders,” was awarded the 2019 Truman Capote Prize for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story.
“I’m kind of speechless,” Wallace said. “Because I’m an Alabama writer, this is the best possible recognition I could get.”
Hollars called his award “an incredible honor. It is so humbling. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Both men applauded the efforts to celebrate Monroe County’s rich literary heritage with the new trail.
“Literature has a two-pronged effect: it’s just entertainment on the one hand, but on the other hand it really does create better people,” Wallace said. “It really does create a more empathetic and imaginative populace. It would be my hope that this would bring more people to the books of all of the great writers in this state.”
Hollars said it’s nice to visit Monroeville, where reading and literature is valued so deeply.
“You can’t go 20 feet without seeing a placard about a writer or see a statue of a child reading a book or a mural from the book,” he said. “I hope the rest of the nation can take a cue from Monroeville and know that our books are our history and our future, too.”
For more information about the Sculpture Trail, contact Monroeville Main Street by visiting monroevillemainstreet.com.