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Umanita (“humanity” in Italian) was created by Verona-born, Chicago-based sculptor Virginio Ferrari for the Newberry Library in 1987 and was funded by a private donation. Originally, it was installed inside the library but was moved outside, just west of the entrance, in 2005. A six-foot high, 170-pound circular sculpture crafted from cut, shaped and welded stainless steel, Ferrari has explained that the opening represents “an opening for more avenues of culture” and the circle represents a person’s intellect.
In February 2008, the sculpture was torn from its stone base and removed and has not been recovered. There is some speculation that high steel prices may have inspired someone to take the sculpture and melt it down for scrap. Fortunately, in February 2009, Ferrari provided a slightly-larger replacement, which serves as the model for the Newberry Library Award, given annually to an individual in recognition of outstanding achievement in the humanities.