A new bronze statue of the late local art pioneer Ron Shapiro, better known as Ronzo, was unveiled at the Powerhouse Community Center on Tuesday. The event, titled “Mardi-Ron,” celebrated with a local trumpet musician playing New Oreleans style jazz and tables adorned with colored beads and rubber bracelets.
“This is the start. This is not the finish,” said Mike Mitchell, who came up with the idea for the statue. “Certainly, this is about the spirit of Ron Shapiro.”
Since Shapiro’s death in 2019, the community has continued to find ways to honor the legacy he left behind. This statue, framed near the entrance of the Powerhouse Community Center, is meant for anyone to touch and take pictures with to honor his memory.
“It’s more about the spirit of love and inclusion, and having it at the Powerhouse makes a lot of sense,” Mitchell said.
After wanting to find a way to celebrate Shapiro’s memory in a way that felt less like a memorial, Mitchell gathered Bill Beckwith, a sculptor from Taylor known for his statue of William Faulker on the Square, and Bruce Newman, a local photographer, and put the idea in motion.
Newman took the photo that the sculpture was based on, and he was also a friend of Shapiro since meeting him on the Square years ago. Beckwith said that the photo of Shapiro in a jester’s hat is something that fit him well.
“He was walking out in front of Something Southern with this getup on, so I got out and took his picture, and sent it to Bill,” Newman said.
Shapiro was known for his heavy involvement in the Oxford art community. He owned The Hoka Theatre, a theater and coffee shop hybrid from 1975-1996, which fostered a community for filmmakers and art lovers.
“Theater has its comedy and tragedy, but we will have a Ronzo exclusive to us,” Beckwith said.
According to Wayne Andrews, director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the statue will stay at the Powerhouse on a long term lease, so others can see and interact with the work. While this is not the only way Shapiro is remembered throughout the community, Andrews said the statue is intended to keep his spirit alive.
“It is intended to stay as part of the Powerhouse to create an interactive space for those who remember Ron to visit him, interact with him and introduce new people to the spirit of Ron,” Andrews said.
The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council will be announcing an art series in August to further celebrate Shapiro and his memory through art installations, music and conversation around the community.