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October 23, 2023, is now known as Derek Chalfant Day! Well, at least if you are in New Rochelle, New York, a city in Westchester County. Chalfant, Associate Professor of Art at Elmira College, was recently honored by Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, for crafting a bronze statue of Edgar Lawrence (E. L.) Doctorow, an important 20th-century American novelist who was born in the Hudson Valley city.
During a dedication ceremony unveiling the statue, Bramson presented Chalfant with a proclamation that declared the date “Derek Chalfant Day.”
In the proclamation, Bramson wrote, “We wish to honor and thank Derek Chalfant for his wonderful work of art, and congratulate him with this prestigious honor.”
“It was truly an incredible honor to be selected by the committee for this international sculpture competition award that pays tribute to E. L. Doctorow and includes his twelve novels cast in bronze,” shared Chalfant. “This public art installation celebrates and promotes literacy and is on the grounds of the park that is also home to New Rochelle High School. It is my hope and belief that this work can have a positive influence on the community, particularly today's youth.”
The statue sits in Huguenot Park and is oriented so that Doctorow looks towards his former New Rochelle home, a prominent site in his best-selling novel, "Ragtime."
The Doctorow Legacy Initiative Committee commissioned Chalfant, choosing his statue proposal over the other, international entries, including those from Turkey and Spain. The Committee, which includes members of the Doctorow Family, the New Rochelle Council on the Arts, the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence, the City of New Rochelle historian, and the co-director of the Westchester County Historical Society, began planning for the statue in 2016.
During the dedication ceremony, students from the New Rochelle High School choir performed selections for the musical version of Ragtime and New York State Assembly Member Amy Pauline said a few words. Doctorow’s wife, Helen Doctorow, and many family members also attended.