Tribute to Willard N Hirsch published in an article for the Preservation Society of Charleston by J Michael McLaughlin

The "Little Dancer" statue at the Children's Fountain in White Point Gardens (The Battery) is one of Charleston's most endearing landmarks but it's history (click here for more on history of statue) like that of it's creator Willard N. Hirsch remains unrecognized to many residents and visitors.

This significant oversight in a city proud of it's artistic and civic heritage is explored for the members of The Preservation Society of Charleston in a recent article by J. Michael McLaughlin entitled "In Search of Willard Hirsch".

I was pleased to be asked to contribute my photos of Mr. Hirsch for Mr. McLaughlin's article on the artist published in the current issue of "Preservation Progress" (Fall 2007/Volume 51).

In the article, Mr. McLaughlin states that "no plaque or marker identifies her (the Little Dancer statue) by name or acknowledges her multi-talented creator." The author continues" may be that a whole generation of young Charlestonians has grown up never having heard his name. He is an integral part of the Holy City's important artistic heritage and it's time (again) for Willard Hirsch to get his due."

I couldn't agree more. Having apprenticed in his studio, I observed Mr. Hirsch at work producing significant artwork in the latter years of his long and distinguished career.

I always felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an artist of Mr. Hirsch's stature.

At that time (1970's), he was greatly sought after for public and private commissions. His significant body of work (click here for a link to the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art listings for 35 of Mr. Hirsch's sculptures) had established him firmly as one of the premier artists in the region.

Willard Hirsch in front of one of his many custon designed
fresh and saltwater aquariums at his studio on Exchange St. 1979. 

Interior view circa 1979 of Hirsch's Charleston studio at 2 Exchange St
with his work in bronze, wood, terra cotta, and plaster on display.

The lack of documentation about his prominent life and career is of serious concern for those who are interested in accurately preserving the record of Charleston's artistic heritage.


Anonymous said...

My granddaughter and I have fond memories of stopping by to "visit" the statue at the children's fountain in White Point Gardens. Since we didn't know the statue's title, my granddaughter named her "Clementine".

Katherine Muschick Schneider said...

Thanks for sharing the charming story of you and your granddaughter's visit's to her little "Clementine".

The Children's Fountain featuring Mr. Hirsch's "Little Dancer" was donated "to the children of Charleston" by an anonymous benefactor.

Although the figure is inscribed with Mr. Hirsch's signature, many visitors to the fountain are unaware of the figure's title or it's creator.

Recent efforts to have the City of Charleston identify the statue in White Point Gardens with a name plate have so far been unsuccessful.


Anonymous said...

The Little Dancer figures prominently in my youth -she was literally my imaginary playmate and often I'd twirl round her as if we were on stage in a pas de deux. I believe Miss Sally Carrington commissioned Hirsch in 1962 and donated to it to the children of Charleston (thus the mounting on low base, so children could easily access a grateful sip of cooling water.)

I've yet to retrieve this News & Courier, May 3 1962 article as referenced in Wikipedia: "White Point Gardens to Get New Fountain," but it may very well reveal more information.

All the best to you and your gracious endeavors. Mr. Hirsh's endearing creation became a great source of comfort and companionship in my youth. "The Little Dancer" is symbolic in my memoir as well, "A Life in the Years of Her Mind."

Sincere regards,
Emily Benedict Gascoyne

Katherine Muschick Schneider said...

Greetings Emily,

What a wonderful tribute you have given Mr. Hirsch and his creation The Little Dancer with your statement, "Mr. Hirsh's endearing creation became a great source of comfort and companionship in my youth."

Mr. and Mrs. Hirsch both stated that the benefactor of the Children's Fountain wished to remain anonymous, which is why no name was added by Mr. Hirsch in his inscription on the statue.

However as you mention, Miss Sally Carrington was reported as the donor in a published source at the time fountain was installed. What a wonderful gift she and Mr. Hirsch have given to children of all ages in Charleston. Hopefully this information will be added in a plaque on the fountain at some point, so their contribution to "the Children of Charleston" will be appropriately recognized and appreciated in the future.

Thanks for your comment.

Warm regards,

Kay Schneider

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