CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A new statue, which embodies a child’s joy and hope, is now on display at Joe Riley Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston.

Artist Mary Whyte donated the bronze station of Lilly Jones to the City of Charleston. It was unveiled during a dedication ceremony Friday morning.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the statue was donated to “increase public art and to be a testament to joy and opportunity and hope that this young lady embodies,” he said during the ceremony.

Jones, who now attends The Citadel, said it doesn’t feel real to see herself in statue form. “I never thought as a four year old that I would be unveiling this today as a junior at The Citadel,” she said.

The state is located near the fountain at Joe Riley Waterfront Park, a place that Mayor Tecklenburg said will be most visible to children and families as they visit the area.

Whyte said the statue captures Jones’s spirit of joy.

“The statue of Lilly is not only a tribute to our African American community, but will be a joyful welcome to Waterfront Park visitors as well,” said Whyte.

She crafted the artwork while recovering from a broken wrist 17 years ago when a surgeon told her the best way to heal was by working in clay.

“100 lbs of clay later, Lilly was born,” she said, inspired to craft a sculpture of the young child reaching up on her toes in sheer joy. “That, to me, was the essence of Lilly then and certainly the essence of you now.”

“On behalf of our citizens, I’d like to thank Mary Whyte. This remarkable statue of Lilly is a beautiful and joyous work of art, and I can’t imagine a more appropriate home for it than Waterfront Park,” said Mayor Tecklenburg.

According to the City of Charleston, Whyte is an American figurative artist known internationally for her watercolors of contemporary people.  Her works are in private, corporate, university and public collections nationwide, and have been featured in numerous media outlets including CBS Sunday Morning, PBS and NPR.

She has received South Carolina’s highest honor in the arts, the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts, and received an honorary doctorate degree from Converse University in Spartanburg, South Carolina last year.

In 2019, Whyte founded the Patriot Art Foundation to honor and inspire veterans through the arts.