A Sculpted Life

Air Date: 02/03/2020

Littleton Alston, Omaha artist
Littleton Alston

Littleton Alston’s young life was sculpted by hardship and triumph. Fifty years later, the Omaha artist and Creighton University associate professor of sculpture is the first African American to create a work to be displayed in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.

Littleton Alston "A Sculpted Life" follows Alston on his creative quest to understand his subject, Nebraska writer Willa Cather, and explores how personal struggles have shaped his own life.

"A Sculpted Life" captures Alston as he creates a clay model of Cather in his Omaha studio, visits Red Cloud to explore her childhood home, and begins work on the 7-foot bronze likeness of Cather that will represent Nebraska to millions of visitors from all over the world.

Alston grew up in poverty in the nation’s capital. As a boy, he escaped from the violence of the streets by hiding out in his basement, learning to draw by copying pictures from National Geographic magazines.

On hot summer days he would ride his bike to the U.S. Capitol, wandering through Statuary Hall and gazing up at the bronze and marble figures. “They were very distant,” he said. “They were like Olympian gods—they didn’t look like me, that’s for sure!”

Over time those figures spoke to him and inspired a dream to create something equally monumental. Sometime in 2021, the bronze statue of Willa Cather will take her place in Statuary Hall, where a young Littleton Alston once wandered in awe.

Single and poor, Alston’s mother worked behind the scenes to get him accepted into the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. As a young man, he came to Omaha on a residency and stayed to raise his family.