Thomas Edison hasn't gone to Washington, D.C., yet, but he's getting closer.
The project to build a statue of the famous inventor and Milan native moved forward Friday when the Ohio Statuary Hall Commission announced it had picked six Ohio artists as semifinalists in the competition to make the statue.
When the project is completed, the statue, which is being made using donated funds, will be one of two statues representing Ohio in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. A statue of President James Garfield will remain at the hall, but a statue for former governor William Allen will be shipped back to Ohio and replaced by Thomas Edison.
The six artists will be whittled down to up to five finalists, who will be asked to make small models of their proposed design. The commission will make the final selection, but its choice also must be approved by Ohio state officials, the U.S. Capitol architect and by the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, the commission said in its announcement. The commission hopes to unveil a new statue of Edison at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 15, 2015.
Fundraising for the statue has brought in nearly $40,000 so far, said Cody Hefner, a spokesman for the commission.
"As we get closer to deciding on a finalist it encourages donors, and selecting that finalist and sharing their design will certainly excite and encourage donors," he said.
The six semifinalists, all established artists, are:
• Alan Cottrill of Zanesville. He maintains a sculpture studio and gallery in downtown Zanesville that welcomes visitors.
• David L. Deming of Cleveland Heights. He's done numerous sculptures of well-known people, including a sculpture of the late U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones that's displayed outside the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.
• Emanuel H. Enriquez of Bowling Green. His statue "Who's Up," a bronze showing boys peering through a fence at a baseball game, is displayed on the home field of the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team.
• Jarrett K. Hawkins of Deer Park. He and his wife, Celene Hawkins, also an artist, own a sculpture business together.
• Thomas Lingeman of Perrysburg. He works primarily in cast bronze and welded steel and has exhibited his work around the world.
• Tom Tsuchiya of Cincinnati. He is known for his sculptures of legendary Cincinnati Reds baseball players at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
Cottrill said his Zanesville studio attracts 8,000 tourists a year, who gaze at 500 of his sculptures.
"It's the biggest collection of any sculptor in the world," he said. "I did a lot of research to be able to say that. I worked my butt off."
Cottrill said he admires the way Edison set goals and outworked his competitors.
"I love Thomas Edison," he said.
Deming said he'd love to be able to sculpt Edison.
“It would be an honor to get to do a figure of Thomas Edison," Deming said. "What a great figure in our history he was. To be represented in the rotunda in Washington, D.C., is a fantastic opportunity for any sculptor."