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RCC ceremony celebrates the legacy of artist John Wilson

Campus sculpture ‘Father and Child Reading’ rededicated with commemorative plaque

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
RCC ceremony celebrates the legacy of artist John Wilson
“Father and Child Reading” by John Wilson. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ROXBURY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

John Wilson’s dynamic sculpture “Father and Child Reading” has sat on the Roxbury Community College campus since 1990. The college commissioned the piece in 1985 and it’s been a symbol of the power of education and interpersonal relationships for decades. Now the sculpture is receiving a commemorative plaque and a rededication ceremony to honor its value for the campus community.

“Father and Child Reading” features a seated man holding a book. In his arms is a young child also looking at the book as the duo reads together. The seven-foot-tall sculpture is a well-known landmark on campus for students and community members alike.

“Father and Child Reading” by John Wilson. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ROXBURY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

“It’s a reminder of the importance of what we do, pass educating, reading, from one generation to the next,” says RCC president Dr. Valerie Roberson. “Ninety percent of our students are students of color. I think we always identify with artists and people that have demonstrated the creativity and the capacity that we have as African Americans or as people of color.”

Wilson is known for other works around Boston and the nation, including “Eternal Presence” on the lawn of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury and a bronze bust of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

The concept for “Father and Child Reading” was born years before the RCC commission. Martha Richardson, operator of Martha Richardson Fine Art and John Wilson’s estate representative found sketches for the piece from as early as 1964. Family and education were important to Wilson, and the sculpture percolated in his mind until the RCC commission presented the perfect opportunity for it.

During his lifetime Wilson commented on the statue, “This statue is an homage to my parents who passed on their love of reading to me. I have a great sense of fulfillment in seeing the statue installed at Roxbury Community College, because I grew up on Oakburn Avenue a few blocks from here.”

Roberson notes that Wilson’s journey parallels that of many RCC students. He came to art later in life and was fostered by the local community, just as the college works to inspire and encourage later in life students who blossom at the school.

Though it’s been 30 years since Wilson installed the piece on campus, “Father and Child Reading” continues to captivate the imagination of RCC campus goers and Greater Boston residents alike. To this day, it’s the go-to spot for students to take graduation photos, and a space for joy and triumph.

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