“Billy Ruane was a friend, and someone whose energy about and passion for music and the arts made a big impact on me,” Coleman tells Vanyaland. “He was truly unique, and you could never forget him after he crossed your path for the first time. It was likely the first of many encounters, each one intense and warm and hilarious.”
While the statue is still in its early stages of planning, fund raising has begun through the sale of a Billy Ruane t-shirt, created by Coleman and depicting a famed Ruane photo taken by Store 54 owner Wayne Valdez. Shown below, they’re priced at $25 and are being sold online, with all proceeds from sales going directly to the statue fund.
“Many times at shows I just assume he is there (in spirit), but I miss his physical presence, and I know I’m not alone,” Coleman adds. “Earlier this year it occurred to me that a statue would be a perfect way to keep Billy’s presence in peoples’ minds, to remind them about how warm and giving he was. And maybe those who didn’t know him would ask about him, and do a bit of research and find out all that he had done for the Boston music scene. The hope is that people always keep Billy’s passion and selflessness in mind — he really was a saint in many ways.”
Coleman, however, stresses that this isn’t just his project, but one comprised of a growing team of Ruane’s friends and admirers, which also includes Valdez and Boston filmmaker Michael Gill, who has been working on a documentary on the scene fixture’s life. As money from t-shirt sales come in, Coleman and the group continue to work on the Ruane statue, which they say has the blessing and support of the Middle East’s owners, Joseph and Nabil Sater, as well as members of Ruane’s family.
“The next step is trying to find an actual sculptor who could do something on this scale,” Coleman says. “Of course it needs to be lifesize and — as anyone who knew Billy would agree — he has to be in mid-dance, with arms flailing and shirt wide open. I envision it maybe like a somewhat less graceful, but just as full of life, Bobby Orr statue.”
The goal is to have the statue created and erected sometime in 2016, but Coleman knows a long road is ahead. “I’m not 100 percent certain that it can be done,” he says, “but I have seen projects that are a lot less important than this funded on some of these online sites. So we will do everything we can to give it a shot later this year and into 2016. Everyone I have mentioned it to thus far has been very enthusiastic about it, so we’ll see if they put their money where their mouths are! Billy always did.”