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Ready for its close-up: Movie-themed sculpture gets official unveiling next Sunday in Cedar Falls

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CEDAR FALLS | From behind the vintage movie camera, it looks as if Merle Blair is beckoning people on the Parkade to step closer into the viewfinder. the bronze statue has been in place for several weeks and has become magnet for visitors who stop and pose for pictures.

The official unveiling and dedication of the Blair Family sculpture called “Showtime” will take place from 3 to 3:20 p.m. next Sunday in front of the Oster Regent Theatre. Barbara Geisey will represent the Blair Family. The public may attend.

“It’s a good landmark as you enter downtown Cedar Falls, and a reminder of what the theater has meant to the community over the years,” said Jan Andersen,a member of the Cedar Falls public art committee. 

The new piece of public art, sculpted by Thelma Weresh of Loveland, Colo., was donated by the Blair Family Estate as their gift to Cedar Falls.

After the 3 p.m. dedication, members of the committee will offer two guided tours of Main Street’s public art, beginning at 3:20 and 4 p.m. A reception will be hosted at Luna Art & Wine with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Uncle Chuck will provide music.

For many years, Merle Blair owned the Regent Theatre when it was a movie theater. Eventually Merle and Winifred Flair and the Beck Trust of Mason City gave the building as a gift to the Cedar Falls Community Theatre. A Restore the Regent fundraising campaign in the 1990's took place to renovate the theater into its present performance and community space, said Liane Nichols, CFCT’s artistic director.

“The Blairs were always interested in what was happening in Cedar Falls. They always felt that connection, and we named the theater lobby after the Blair family,” she said.

Mary Huber, who continues to be active on the public art committee after her recent retirement as director of the Hearst Center for the Arts, said the cast bronze sculpture is 72 inches tall.

“Weresh, who is 94 years old, took a stylized approach to the piece. It refers to Merle Blair’s characteristics rather than being an exact depiction,” she said.

Sculptures now number six along Main Street. “We’re a model for other communities our size and larger who are interested in starting their own programs. It’s a collaborative effort with the city of Cedar Falls to install these pieces,” said Dan Peary, chair of the Cedar Falls public arts committee.

“When we started the public art program, it wasn’t an easy sell. But when we got our first pieces, I think people began to understand the aesthetic and economic impact of art on our community,” said Andersen.

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