The book documents Duncan’s journey from Oklahoma — her parents were tenant farmers and her grandparents slaves — to forging the historic Cotton Club, which opened in the 1950s. The racially integrated jazz club stood out as a bastion of equality in pre-Civil Rights Colorado. Pandy, hooked by Esmiol’s work, took the sign Duncan displayed in the window as the name for her statue: “Everybody Welcome.”
“She wanted everyone to have a good time and to feel special and taken care of and to have pride,” says Pandy. She’s been researching Duncan tirelessly to do her statue justice, collaborating with both Esmiol, who was a friend of Duncan’s before her passing in 2005, and Claudine Brooks Bragg, Duncan’s niece. They worked hard to portray her properly, picking out practical period clothing for a woman of business while honoring Duncan’s well-known love of extravagant hats. Pandy wanted most of all to capture Duncan’s welcoming personality, giving her a posture and expression that reflect her “everybody’s welcome” attitude.
Pandy has blogged each step in the design and creation process, partially in the hopes that seeing all the work that goes into a statue will reduce future vandalism. The steering committee plans to unveil maquettes of the finalized statue design at a fundraising event and exhibition of Pandy’s art at the Pikes Peak Center — the committee needs to raise a further $30,000 to meet their $100,000 budget for the statue itself, a figure that does not include shipping and other expenses. Rocky Mountain PBS recently released an hour-long documentary celebrating Duncan’s life, now viewable on their website.