Proposals open for Christa McAuliffe statue at State House in Concord


Monitor staff

Published: 05-31-2023 9:02 AM

Tim McGough opened a stargazing app and angled his phone toward the mid-morning sky in downtown Concord. To the naked eye, there was nothing but clear blue above. But through the app, McGough saw clusters of constellations and a line of planets.

“Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mercury… that’s pretty cool,” said McGough, a state Representative from Merrimack.

McGough stood in a shaded corner of the State House grounds and explained a possible vision for a future memorial for Christa McAuliffe .

“I’d love for there to be some kind of celestial component,” said McGough, a member of the Christa McAuliffe State House Memorial Commission. “Because after all, she was headed for space.”

The commission, established by Gov. Chris Sununu through an executive order in February, is tasked with selecting an artist to create a life-size bronze sculpture of McAuliffe. The memorial will be placed on the front-facing portion of the State House grounds. The commission is currently accepting proposals from artists until July 31.

McAuliffe, a beloved Concord High School educator, was selected out of over 11,000 applicants for the 1984 Teacher in Space Project. She was one of seven crew members killed aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

McGough says the Teacher in Space Project was intended to honor “a really important part of American society… the people that inspire our youth and that are the foundation of our society.” He said he hopes the McAuliffe memorial will serve the same purpose.

“I can’t think of any more appropriate woman’s legacy to honor,” McGough said. “She was on the forefront of educating, known as the ‘field trip teacher.’ She was into experiential learning before it was commonplace.”

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The requests for proposals asks artists to make the sculpture approachable, highlight McAuliffe’s commitment to education and reflect the moment she played in history, including one of her most famous quotes: “I touch the future, I teach.”

“Everyone has a favorite teacher. Everyone has a teacher who really inspired them in a way that lasts throughout their life. So having a teacher on the State House grounds… it’s very exciting,” said Jeanne Gerulskis, the executive director of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center and a member of the commission.

Walking around the State House grounds, McGough explained that the commission hopes the selected artist will pick a spot where school groups visiting the State House can interact with the memorial.

“We want something to be approachable and engaging,” McGough said. He gestured to the statues of General John Stark, Daniel Webster and John Parker Hale, elevated on pedestals high above the ground. “Each and every one of these guys, they’re all kind of perched up overlooking things,” he said. “I can’t get to know these guys other than through the history books. I question how approachable they are to our youth, and how directly inspiring they are.”

Gerulskis agrees.

“Having someone right there interacting with you, it’s a more human experience with a sculpture,” she said. “In respect for women, in respect for teachers, and in respect for not putting people up on a pedestal so that they’re looking down on the public, it’s very exciting.”

The sculpture is slated to be unveiled on McAuliffe’s birthday in September 2024. Artists are encouraged to submit proposals for designs through the commission’s website.