Artist’s Lifework A Family Affair

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Ziolkowski accepted the invitation and arrived in the Black Hills of South Dakota to begin work when he was nearly 40. The sculptor dedicated the rest of his life to building the Crazy Horse Memorial. In the beginning, Ziolkowski worked alone on the mountain. The first blast June 3, 1948 was the only blast that year. So much other work needed to be done first. There was nothing but trees at the site. Ziolkowski had to build a place to live and a 741-step staircase up the side of the mountain, which he would climb several times a day. Ziolkowski, and now his family, intend for the Crazy Horse Memorial to be more than a mountain carving. The vision has three parts: the carving, an Indian Museum of North America and, ultimately, University and Medical Training Center for the North American Indian. Korczak wanted to carve the mountain to help give back some pride to the Native American people, Ruth said. But he knew it would be a tourist attraction as well and it was going to make money. He did not want it just for someone to get wealthy. He wanted that money to go to something worthwhile, so he planned the university and the museum. That’s the ultimate goal. When the mountain is done, these projects will have the Indian people involved. The memorial is a private, non-profit undertaking. When Ziolkowski died in 1982, the project was nowhere near completion. But there was never a doubt about carrying on. Work has continued, slowly but steadily, since Ziolkowski’s death. The family took heed of the letter he left them, and Ruth and seven children took on the task of completing the vision. It’s neat, it really is. It’s a little like the family farm used to be, Ruth said. No one said that you’ll run the restaurant, or you’re going to work on the mountain, or that you’re going to run the gift shop. But there was a job to be done and when one of the youngsters took a liking to it, they did it. Six grandchildren have become a part of the family project and, last year, a great-granddaughter joined the effort. I told Korczak that I would keep Crazy Horse together, Ruth said.

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