Duke Ellington Statue

In 1997, a bronze statue of Duke Ellington, legendary jazz musician and composer, was installed at Duke Ellington circle, near the northeast corner of Central Park. The dedication marked the culmination of an 18-year campaign to build a memorial to Ellington in New York City. In 1979, pianist Bobby Short conceived of the project, began fundraising, and selected Robert Graham as its sculptor. Next came the more difficult question of where to place the statue. One early proposal was to erect the statue where Duke Ellington Boulevard (West 106th Street) entered Central Park. However, the Central Park Conservancy suggested that the memorial be placed near the Park’s northeast corner as part of a revitalization effort of the Park’s northern end. In placing the statue at the Park’s entrance, Ellington joined Christopher Columbus and General William Tecumseh Sherman as the historic figures honored at the Park’s grand entrance plazas. Politicians, dignitaries, and Harlem neighborhood residents gathered at the dedication to honor the musician who had played such an integral role in elevating jazz as a major American art form. Ellington is one of four African-American figures honored along Central Park North, which is an area often called “The Gateway to Harlem.”

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