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Roger Ebert's hometown raising money for statue

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 8:39 am

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Organizers in Roger Ebert's hometown announced plans Tuesday to try to raise $125,000 to build a life-size bronze statue of the late famed film critic.

The statue would go in front of Champaign's Virginia Theatre, which has hosted the Ebertfest film festival for 15 years. Ebert, a Pulitzer Prize-winning movie reviewer and television personality, grew up in neighboring Urbana and attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

The sculpture will show Ebert sitting in the middle of three movie theater chairs giving his signature "thumbs up." Artist Rick Harney of Bloomington will create the sculpture. Ebert's widow, Chaz Ebert, selected the composition and organizers said she will work with Harney on the design.

"The sculpture will be a permanent memorial which will honor Ebert for both his career and his dedication to his roots," said a statement announcing the fundraising campaign. "It will also honor him for his determination to press forward with Ebertfest in the face of huge medical challenges."

Organizers hope to have the sculpture ready to unveil and dedicate at next year's Ebertfest in April.

Ebert died in April in Chicago after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 70.

Along with his nationally syndicated Chicago Sun-Times column, Ebert became famous hosting a TV movie review show with fellow critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune.