The Mountain Carving Room
Korczak Ziolkowski, a Boston native born of Polish descent, started out in life already behind. Orphaned at one, he grew up in a series of foster homes. He learned early on if he needed or wanted something he would have to work hard to earn it. He started his artistic career learning woodworking and furniture making; then moved to the art of sculpture. In 1939, Korczak worked with Gutzon Borglum on the Shrine of Democracy sculpture, Mount Rushmore. Later that year Korczak's Carrara marble portrait, "Paderewski, Study of an Immortal," won first prize at the New York World's Fair. The attention and media coverage of his award prompted Chief Henry Standing Bear to write Korczak a letter appealing to the sculptor to create a memorial for the American Indians of North America.
The letter from Chief Henry Standing Bear is displayed in the Mountain Carving Room. He wrote to Korczak: "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also." Korczak would correspond with Chief Henry Standing Bear over the next several years. At age 34, Korczak volunteered to serve in World War II. At war’s end the invitation was accepted and Korczak dedicated the rest of his life to Crazy Horse Memorial. Over their years of correspondence the two had become great friends: the Mountain Carving Room displays the progress of this wonderful relationship including pictures of the visit Chief Standing Bear made to Korczak’s home on the East Coast, their meeting once Korczak had agreed to carve the memorial & a bronze bust of Chief Standing Bear Korczak first created in African mahogany in 1940.
Korczak’s original plan for the Memorial was to start with the horses head. The Mountain Carving Room features the tools Korczak used in the early years of the Mountain, including a ½ size replica of “the bucket”; a wooden basket used with an aerial cable car run by an antique Chevy engine that allowed the sculptor to haul equipment and tools up the Mountain. Korczak passed away in 1982, leaving Ruth Ziolkowski and his 10 children to continue with the Crazy Horse dream. Ruth took charge as Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s President & CEO, she decided to change the focus, shifting the work from the 219 foot tall horse's head to the more manageable 87 ½ foot tall face of Crazy Horse. This shift in focus is displayed in the Mountain Carving Room by showing the measuring models used to carve the face of Crazy Horse, plasters of Crazy Horse’s face and the detailed pictorial progression of the face carving. You will find details on the next phase in the Memorial’s carving. Focus has moved now to Crazy Horse's hand, arm, and opposite shoulder and the horse's mane and head.