Public art is often at its best when it is provocative. But if nothing else, it should be eye-catching.
A six-foot tall purple-and-black Dalmatian sculpture at the entrance to the Lake View Terrace branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is hard to miss and seeks to inspire the public about the hero in all of us.
The metal sculpture “R. Hero” is a donation to the library from The Hero in You Foundation, and honors firefighters, police officers, first responders and military service men and women. It’s to serve as a reminder of the sacrifices such heroic individuals make every day.
Many of these first responders gathered on March 27 for the unveiling of the giant pooch.
The Hero in You Foundation is a nonprofit organization created by Bunni and Rick Benaron after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York. The foundation’s mission is “to pay tribute to first responders, true heroes that show us what courage is every day, while inspiring the next generation of heroes to follow in their footsteps.”
By installing large Dalmatian puppy sculptures in public places, the foundation gives children and their parents, caregivers and teachers a visual reminder and conversation starter about what it considers the traits of a hero — respect, honor, bravery and compassion for others.
The Lake View Terrace library is now part of the “Dalmatian Nation.” There are 20 other similar sculptures across the country at children’s hospitals, police stations and parks. There’s also one at the Children’s Museum in El Salvador. The Benarons’ foundation hopes of expanding “Dalmatian Nation” to where an R. Hero sculpture can be placed in every city that requests a sculpture to honor local heroes and inspire the next generation.
The couple have also written a children’s book, “R. Hero: A Dog’s Tale.” Copies of the book were distributed among the attendees at the unveiling, including 70 Students from Fenton Charter and Delphi Academy school in Lake View Terrace.
In the brightly illustrated children’s book, the main character, Rocket, learns how he and others can earn hero spots by helping others.
“We are thrilled to be in Lake View Terrace today for the first installation with the City of Los Angeles, and our first installation at a public library. We believe that the Lake View Terrace Library is a perfect place to continue our mission of recognizing local heroes, while inspiring and helping to educate the future generation,” said Bunni Benaron at the unveiling, where she was joined by police officers and firefighters, along with many of their own four-legged partners.
Bunni said it took about five months to arrange for the sculpture, created by Karen and Tony Barone, to be placed at the library.
“We have seen great strides in the Lake View Terrace community to build upon our future generations, both here at the library, and with the neighboring Discovery Cube, the Boys and Girls Club and with the Hansen Dam Recreation Center. We are honored to be in such great company,” Bunni said.
“My husband and I want ‘R. Hero’ to inspire children to be heroes in their own lives, as I think we would all like to be a hero of some sort in our everyday lives. By installing these beautiful, large sculptures in public places, children and their parents have a visual reminder and conversation starter about what courage is, and can pay tribute to heroes everywhere.”
For more information, visit www.R-hero.org.