People always wonder, why is there a statue of Lenin, the guy most associated with Communism and the father of the old Soviet Union, doing in the middle of Fremont?
As with most quirky things in Fremont, there's a story to be told.
Sometime back around the late 1970's, a Slavic artist named Emil Venkov was commissioned to build a statue of Lenin out of bronze. Venkov is an artist who is widely exhibited in Europe and the United States. Unlike any other statue of Lenin, Venkov had Lenin surrounded by guns and flames instead of holding a book or waving his hat as he is usually portrayed. Venkov was able to express his vision of Lenin as a violent revolutionary; not just an intellectual and theoretician. The statue was erected in Poprad, Czechoslovakia in 1988 where it stood gloriously for about a year.
Then in 1989, a revolution hit the country. Communism was overthrown, the country changed it's name to Slovakia and statues of Lenin were ripped down and dumped in junkyards to rot. About the same time, an bronze artist named Lewis Carpenter happened to be teaching in Poprad and ran across the statue. He was familiar with Venkov's work and liked the statue. But what he liked even more was the scrap value of the bronze. The price for the piece was $13,000 which was dirt cheap for bronze. He had the statue shipped to his home in Issaquah, Washington for another $28,000, where he planned to either preserve it or sell it for scrap.
Unfortunately, Lewis Carpenter was killed shortly after he arrived back in the US in a car accident. His family was stuck with a 30 ton bronze sculpture and no idea what to do with it. One thing was for sure, you can't sell a house in America with a seven ton statue in the driveway.
The family contacted Peter Bevis, who owns the Fremont Brass Foundry. He offered to help the family sell the statue and move it out of Issaquah. The statue was moved from Issaquah to a parking lot in Fremont on the corner of 34th and Evanston, right next to the Imperial Mattress Factory. To say that people were outraged by the fact a statue of Lenin was erected at all in Fremont would be a huge understatement. However, Fremont is a weird and funky place and the best way to illustrate that was to take a look at Lenin in person. At the time, he was gazing out towards the Washington Ship Canal, but over his right shoulder, there was a Cold War rocket attached to the side of a building. The Rocket used to adorn the side of an army surplus store in Seattle, but was removed. Some Fremont artists got together, painted the rocket, added some neon and in no time they created an artistic sculpture out of what used to be a weapon of war. This is the way of Fremont.
The statue has never found a proper buyer and a few years ago Lenin was moved a down the street and can now can be found at the corner of 36th and Evanston Ave North (600 N 36th, Seattle, WA 98103). The Fremont Chamber of Commerce is slowly raising money to pay for the sculpture so it can find a permanent home in Fremont.
One thing that is not lost on people is the fact that Lenin represents a tragically flawed system which persecuted and killed millions of people. There are many people more worthy of being cast in bronze, but Lenin ended up in Fremont. He is a profound reminder that art can outlive politics. If art is supposed to bring out emotion, this piece is successful in accomplishing just that. To that extent, a vistor coming across Lenin may find the statue is decorated. Sometimes lights grace the statue, sometimes it's a red clown nose. It's just the way things happen in Fremont, the Center of the Universe.
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