FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A local nonprofit unveiled a sculpture Friday on Fort Wayne’s south side as a physical mark of their plans to lead an “economic comeback” in the area.

With more than 200 in attendance, Blue Jacket, Inc. dedicated the Chief Blue Jacket sculpture, recognizing its namesake and honoring the Shawnee war chief. 

The sculpture represents Blue Jacket’s investment in the community. The nonprofit said they plan to invest more time and energy as a leader of an “economic comeback” for south side neighborhoods.

The 13-foot-tall fine art sculpture was created by Sayaka Ganz, a local artist with an international influence. 

Ganz spent a significant amount of time researching Shawnee culture and Chief Blue Jacket himself while working on the sculpture.

“I hope that this sculpture will give the people who come to Blue Jacket a sense of dignity and hope and a sense of resilience because of the use of the materials and also the subject matter portrayed,” Ganz said.

Organizers said 16 Shawnee descendants of Chief Blue Jacket travelled from around the country to attend.

Tony Hudson, the executive director of Blue Jacket, said beforehand, “It is nerve wracking to me that descendants bearing the name of this brilliant legend will be present, because I fear we will fall short in honoring the legacy of someone whose life story captivates me.”

Blue Jacket credited several local businesses with improvements made in the northern portion of the historic corridor near Calhoun and Pontiac Streets. They named Saigon Restaurant, Sanco Industries, the Oyster Bar, and Neighborhood Health Clinic as leaders in the effort.

The nonprofit said they want to continue those efforts, namely as a resource for South Side High School among other ventures. Plans were also announced to build a café “sometime in 2024” on the same block as the Blue Jacket offices.

As for immediate changes, the new sculpture will soon be at the center of a garden adorned with new landscaping, flag poles, decorative fencing, and a gazebo, features intended to bring pride to Blue Jacket clients and neighbors alike.