Right now, it’s just an idea freshly arrived on the radar of state officials, but a plan to build a 300-foot statue at the former Draper state prison site, described as a companion piece to New York’s Statue of Liberty, has taken its first steps toward a potential home in Utah.

The Statue of Responsibility was first conceived of nearly 80 years ago by Austrian psychologist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl who believed the ode to liberty, embodied in the iconic Statue of Liberty, was worthy of a complimentary monument on the West Coast of the U.S. that would help underscore that the concept of freedom as one that requires both liberty and responsibility.

Freedom, however, is not the last word,” Frankl wrote in his 1946 book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” “Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. 

“That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” 

University of Utah graduate and sculptor Gary Lee Price was connected to the Statue of Responsibility proposal through Utah educator and author Stephen Covey, a friend of Frankl’s who reportedly promised to shepherd the idea to reality. Price, an accomplished artist with works on display around the world, came up with an idea for the monument, a depiction of two hands locked in a grasp, almost 20 years ago. He sculpted a 17” version of the statue and took it to Vienna, Austria in 2004 where he received a blessing for the concept directly from Frankl’s widow and family members. Since that time, an effort has been under way to find a location to erect a 300-foot sculpture, which will be assembled from cast aluminum and, until just a short time ago, that was expected to be somewhere in California.

Derrin Hill, left, and David Oakes position a small replica of the Statue of Responsibility in the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. | Ravell Call, Deseret News

But Price, who was a longtime Utah resident before moving to Arizona about five years ago to be closer to a potential California siting of his sculpture, said he and the non-profit group that’s been backing the idea ran into a timeline that put a potential Golden State buildout decades down the road.

On Tuesday, the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority board got to hear a pitch for how the monument’s best home may very well be in Utah from Steve Cohen, CEO of the Statue of Responsibility Foundation. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also spoke before the board on Tuesday and shared his enthusiastic support of the idea.

“We used to be a nation of architects and now we’re a nation of arsonists,” Cox said. “We destroy, we tear down and there’s so little left to inspire us. I believe Utah is still a state of architects, a state of builders. I still believe that we believe in big things.

“I can think of no other emblem that better represents who we are as a people in this state than the Statue of Responsibility. This is our opportunity to leave a legacy not just to our children and grandchildren but to the entire nation. You have, I think, a unique opportunity, singular in the history of our great state, to do something big. To do something monumental, literally, to change the face of this place and the world forever and I hope that we will take that opportunity.”

A spokeswoman for the land authority board said the body was excited to hear about the Statue of Responsibility project and is looking forward to seeing a formal proposal from the group. All project proposals for the project are subject to a comprehensive, multi-point review process and extensive vetting before they would be brought to the board for a potential approval vote.

While the Phase 1 plan for The Point has already been approved and details will be made public next week outlining work that will be accomplished over approximately the next ten years on the 600-acre site, there are protocols in place for advancing concurrent projects outside the scope of work already reviewed and approved. However, any additions would have to first navigate an established vetting process before being forwarded to the board for its consideration.

Price said all the work that’s already been done in advance of the previously hoped-for Statue of Responsibility in California has advanced the project in “turn-key” status and he believes, pending the successful completion of the Point of the Mountain Land Authority process, the monument could be under construction as early as 2026.

One aspect on the plus side of the equation for Price and the Statue of Responsibility idea is that the foundation behind the effort is committed to funding the monument, which has an estimated construction cost of $300 million, entirely through donations. Price said there is also a plan in place to create an endowment through the fundraising process that would also cover operational costs for the monument, which will include an elevator-accessed observation deck near the top of the structure and space in the three-story base.

He also noted that the intent of the project is not just to build a monument, but create a community gathering place for education, outreach and enrichment.

“The Statue of Responsibility monument will serve as an international icon of responsibility,” reads a statement on the foundation’s website. “It will engage individuals, families, schools, communities, businesses and governments from around the globe with programs that encourage responsibility while improving people’s lives for generations to come.”