Old Sower

Omahan Jeff Heldt said he created this design in 2002. He said he mistakenly based it on a relief sculpture done by the same artist, Lee Lawrie, on Michigan State’s campus.

LINCOLN — About a month after its debut spurred a flurry of Internet chatter and some mocking from “Saturday Night Live,” Nebraska’s new standard license plate has a new Sower.

The Governor’s Office and Rhonda Lahm, director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, shared the more authentic design with The World-Herald on Tuesday evening.

The new design will replace the previously announced version that state officials pulled after the artist whose drawing was used told the newspaper that he had mistakenly based his design on the wrong sower.

“We have a new Sower, and we’re ready to move forward with production,” Lahm said.

The new image of the Sower was designed by graphic designers with the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services and the Office of the Capitol Commission, which maintains the State Capitol building.

The design was based on an image that has been used in previous Nebraska productions and prints, Lahm said. The Capitol Commission worked to ensure that the pedestal the Sower stands on was accurate, she said.

Capitol Administrator Bob Ripley said the new image is a stylized portrait of the 19-foot-tall bronze figure of an ancient farmer hand-sowing seeds atop the 400-foot State Capitol tower.

“The artwork for the license plate was created from a photo image of this colossus, which was set in place in May 1930 during the original construction of our national landmark building,” he said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and Lahm unveiled the first version of the standard plate at a press conference in March. That design was created by Department of Motor Vehicles staff and graphic design personnel from vendor 3M, with final approval from the governor.

The design prompted widespread commentary, including criticism that it carried a sexual connotation.

Local artists told The World-Herald that the design was too similar to a sower on a bell tower on Michigan State’s campus in East Lansing. The most distinguishing feature, they said, was the way the sower’s hand gripped the pouch.

Omahan Jeff Heldt said he drew the image and submitted it in 2002 as part of a state contest that offered citizens a chance to create the 2005 standard plate. He said he inadvertently used the Michigan sower as a basis for his design.

At one point, State Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha introduced legislation to delay issuing a new standard license plate design for a year. State law requires that new standard license plates be issued every six years.

State officials announced April 1 that they had halted production to design a more accurate depiction. The pause caused no additional cost to the state, Lahm said.

The gold and navy blue top portion of the plate is still featured in the new version. 3M finished that portion before production was put on hold.

The navy blue and gold represent the colors of the Nebraska state flag, while the years 1867 and 2017 along the bottom are a nod to Nebraska’s 150th birthday next year.

The state has authorized 3M to proceed with production, Lahm said. The company will first make the sheeting, which is applied to the metal plate, then send it to the Department of Corrections for manufacturing.

Lahm said she doesn’t expect further adjustments to the design. The plate will be issued starting in January 2017. “We’re going to have people who like it and people who don’t like it,” she said. “We think it’s a great plate.”

Contact the writer: 402-473-9581, emily.nohr@owh.com

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