Professor plans new memorial at Wisconsin university

Taylor Rogers

Jason Lanka, assistant professor of art, is attempting to raise money for a new sculpture in memory of the four students killed by the Ohio National Guard on May 4.

The university had originally planted four trees in honor of them, but Lanka said two of the trees have since died, and UWEC needed the space for the expansion of its student union. He removed them last winter.

Lanka now has plans to construct a sculpture, which he calls a “universal offering.” It will take the shape of two hands cupped as if they were presenting a gift. A single tree will grow from the palms.

Lanka said he formed this design around the idea that the sculpture should appeal to everyone.

“I wanted to have something that is universally representative of a gift without relying on faith-based symbolism,” Lanka said. “I just wanted to make sure that it was completely universal to everyone of all faiths and genders.”

Although the wood from the original trees is damaged, Lanka plans to use as much of it as he can.

Once grown, the tree planted in the palms will be replaced with another so the sculpture is “constantly regenerating gifts,” Lanka said.

While he has a clear concept for what he wants the memorial to look like, Lanka still has to raise roughly $10,000 before he can begin constructing the sculpture. He said he is unsure of when he’ll have the total amount.

Krista Napp, co-chair of the May 4 Task Force, was unaware of Lanka’s plans, but she said she is pleased Kent State’s commemorations aren’t the only ones in the country.

“I think we can all say that it’s pretty cool they’re making a memorial in Wisconsin about it,” Napp said. “It’s interesting that it impacted people that weren’t even on campus that day.”

Lanka’s plans remain motionless until he can find funding. He said he will continue to pursue the memorial’s construction because he feels all young generations owe those students for the liberties they have now.

“It really is because of that generation that we feel we have the right as young people to voice our opinions,” Lanka said, “and to know that the government has a responsibility to answer.”

–Taylor Rogers