It was just a few weeks ago that Captain Janeway was being honored with a monument in Bloomington, Indiana, and now there is a proposal for another Star Trek icon to be memorialized. This time it’s Leonard Nimoy, in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. The plan is to remember Nimoy with a sculpture of his iconic Vulcan salute and his enduring message to “live long and prosper.”
Leonard Nimoy’s Boston
Before moving out to California to start his acting career, Leonard Nimoy was born and raised in the West End neighborhood of Boston, and he also attended Boston College. Nimoy never forgot his Boston roots and returned to the city often, often supporting the local community. His voice can still be heard offering narration for the Boston Science Museum, and in 2012 he was given an honorary degree by Boston University where he gave the commencement address in which he talked about how his West End roots helped him portray his most iconic role:
“My folks came to the United States as immigrants, aliens, and they became citizens. I was born in Boston a citizen; I went to Hollywood, and I became an alien. Spock called for exactly the kind of work I was prepared to do. He was a character with a rich and dynamic inner life – half human, half Vulcan. He was the embodiment of the outsider, like the immigrants who surrounded me in my early years. How do you find your way as the alien in a foreign culture? Where does your identity and dignity come from? And how do you make a contribution?”
It was the 2014 PBS documentary Leonard Nimoy’s Boston that inspired Boston native and artist Thomas Stocker to find a way to memorialize one of its most famous native sons. “He really loved the city of Boston, his hometown, and he kept coming back here for charitable work,” said Stocker to TrekMovie. “That documentary really showed his love for the city and I thought he really should be acknowledged.”
Stocker doesn’t consider himself to be a hardcore Star Trek fan, but he was still struck by the power of Nimoy’s signature Vulcan salute—something the actor developed for the classic episode “Amok Time.” Stocker soon gravitated to the idea of memorializing Nimoy with a monument of his salute. “He was such a worldwide phenomenon. And his open salutation has become this worldwide greeting.” He first proposed the idea in a 2014 letter to Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee, who reprinted it under the headline “A Boston Memorial to Leonard Nimoy? – Logical.”
A memorial worthy of a legend
The idea sat with Stocker for a number of years, who spent some of that time working with an M.I.T. professor designing a holographic memorial, but that proved impractical for a public space. Then in 2019, the idea was rekindled when Stocker saw a sculpture outside the New England Conservatory of Music depicting the scroll at the end of a violin. He immediately believed that type of sculpture would be perfect for the Nimoy concept, and contacted the sculptor David Phillips.
At this point, Stocker had also picked a potential location for the sculpture as well: West End Place, which is a co-op residential community in Boston with a large plaza in front of the entrance. As a longtime member of the Boston arts community, Stocker knows that any project of this sort on public lands can take years to get approval, and his belief is that the process will be more streamlined working with private property. He is currently working with the trustees of the property to get their sign-off, but has some alternative ideas just in case.
Sculptor David Phillips, who has lived in Boston since 1970, has started working on a concept for the proposed memorial. He primarily works in metal and stone, so for the Nimoy memorial, he envisions a stainless steel lattice sculpture around 25 feet tall, on a stone base with a bronze plaque. It would be internally lit, with the lighting hidden in the stone base. He has sketched out some concepts with hand models but is planning to modify the design to more capture the shape of Nimoy’s actual hand. The final sculpture could weigh in at well over a ton, possibly even three tons, with only a handful of fabricators around the world capable of creating it, likely in pieces that would have to be reassembled. Phillips believes the process of fabricating something of this scale could take up to a year, but there are a number of major hurdles to cross before that can even start.
“People still talk about him as a local boy who made good. His father was a barber. It’s a great hometown story,” said Phillips about what attracted him to the project. “The message of ‘live long and prosper’ and the hand gesture is from another planet and is this universal gesture of goodwill.”
Nimoy family on board
Of course, securing the location and finalizing the design are only the next steps in what would be a long process. The big challenge will be the funding for the project, which is estimated at $200,000 to $250,000. Stocker is looking to set up a 501(c) non-profit organization along with a board of trustees to oversee the project. He is hoping to eventually garner donations both at the grassroots level along with some large-dollar philanthropists, organizations, and possibly corporations who want to support the project. They may also collaborate with other organizations, such as the West End Museum in Boston.
The proposal has already picked up some key support. Recently Leonard Nimoy’s daughter Julie Nimoy has come on board along with her husband David Knight, who are both enthusiastically supportive and will be involved in taking the project to those next steps. “If my dad were here today and this was happening, he would be very excited about it,” Nimoy told TrekMovie. “He loved Boston, and he loved growing up in the West End of Boston.”
Regarding the design and message, Nimoy said:
The live long and prosper symbol resonates with so many people, not just here in the States, but throughout the world. And I think it means a lot to everyone in different ways. Community and peace and being a good person. It’s universal. Everybody knows the hand sign of ‘live long and prosper.’ It’s just a good feeling and it brings out good feelings in people, not just Star Trek fans, but just people anywhere. It’s a positive symbol. I think we need it. There’s so much stress and anxiety throughout the world with everything going on and fear and I think people need something positive.
Looking for feedback
Right now Julie and David are looking for feedback from the local and fan community on the proposed project and design. “We wanted to get feedback from the public and see if this is something people would embrace,” says Knight. “We’d also like to get feedback on what ‘live long and prosper’ represents to them. We’re trying to get a sense from the public as to what they think that that message should represent.”
As a special tribute, a 25’ stainless steel #LLAP memorial has been proposed in Boston. It will honor @TheRealNimoy and will be a symbol for peace and tolerance worldwide. Dad would be so happy that this positive message could resonate with people for yrs to come. @nimoycopdfilm pic.twitter.com/s2cz7vNLqs
— Julie Nimoy (@JulieNimoy) October 30, 2020
In the coming months, the project will have an official website and a way for fans to interact more with the people behind the project, as well as getting updates and making donations. TrekMovie will be following the Nimoy Boston Memorial project and provide updates as it progresses.