By Alyssa Schnugg
A new bronze plaque of the late Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro was unveiled Tuesday morning at the Powerhouse.
Several people attended the chilly, outdoor celebration, aptly dubbed “Mardi Ron,” including the creator of the bronze bas relief-styled plaque, Bill Beckwith, that was modeled after a photo taken by photographer Bruce Newman.
Newman said Shapiro had called him one afternoon, several years ago, and asked him to meet him on the Square.
“I pulled over and he was walking in front of Something Southern and he had this getup on and I got out and I took his photo,” Newman said at the unveiling celebration. “It’s bronze and it’s a bronze Ronzo, so I guess we can call it the ‘Bronzo.’ … We’ll have a Ronzo here in Oxford that is unique just to us, so I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
In the photo, and now the bronze sculpture, Ronzo is wearing Mardi Gras beads and a jester’s hat.
The sculpture was commissioned by Mike Mitchell and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council agreed to display the art work near the front door into the Powerhouse.
“After Ron passed, a lot of us starting having conversations about keeping Ron’s spirit alive and Mike came up with a great solution,” said YAC director Wayne Andrews.
Shapiro died in August 2019. He had a true love for art and the LOU community. He opened the Hoka Theatre in 1976. The theater, named after the Chickasaw princess who had once owned the land that would become Oxford, was known as a bohemian coffeehouse/movie theater. It closed in 1996.
“This is about the spirit of Ron … and that spirit is about inclusion. It’s about love. It’s about a little bit of fun and joy and also the seriousness of how our community and the arts sets us apart,” Mitchel said.
Beckwith thanked Mitchell, Newman and his friend, Ron Shapiro.
“I just want to thank Ronzo for being Ronzo,” he said.