Pugh invites public input on Confederate monuments

By MORGAN OME | September 7, 2017


file photo The pedestal remains empty after the city removed the statues last month.

After the City of Baltimore removed four Confederate monuments in August, many have wondered what the City plans to do with them.

The four monuments are currently held in an undisclosed lot, according to The Baltimore Sun. The pedestals on which the monuments previously stood remain empty.

In a press conference last Wednesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh answered questions about the future of the monuments.

Pugh also stated that several private individuals and at least one cemetery have expressed interest in acquiring the monuments. She announced the formation of a committee to help the City reach a decision.

“We’ve got several issues to address, including where they ultimately will end up,” she said. “How do we repurpose the platforms that they stood on?”

Individuals can submit recommendations to the committee before the end of the year and will have the opportunity to voice their opinions.

“There will be public meetings around this as well because they want to get some input from folks in reference to how they want to see us move forward,” Pugh said.

Pugh said she is confident in the committee, though she does not have a timeline for when any decisions will be reached.

“I’m not sure how quickly all of this takes place,” she said.

During the press conference, Pugh also announced a new online portal for the City to review the public’s designs and proposals for what may replace the monuments.   

In an email to The News-Letter, Communications Director for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA) Tracy Baskerville wrote that the portal was a way to accumulate ideas.

“It is not an official call for submissions, but a call for ideas,” Baskerville wrote.

Craig Hankin, the director of the Center for Visual Arts at Hopkins, has lived in Baltimore for over 50 years. He praised the city for enlisting the public in the decision making process.

“It’s essential that the people who will see whatever goes back on those pedestals have a voice in determining this,” he said.

Whether or not the monuments are replaced, Hankin said he is glad that they were removed. He sees value in either creating new works of art to stand on the pedestals, or simply leaving them empty.

Hankin said that a plaque explaining the history of the Confederate monuments and detailing how the City ultimately removed them would be an appropriate addition.

He also would be happy to see statues of figures with connections to Baltimore.

“I can think of plenty of candidates who would be worthy replacements, he said. “Baltimore has no shortage of African American figures worth celebrating.”

Hankin said he was opposed to the idea of melting the monuments down because of their artistic value.

“I have a real problem with the destruction of artwork, even artwork that may have been in the service of a bankrupt concept,” he said.

Senior art history major Julia Zimmerman worked with BOPA, the office overseeing the online portal for ideas, over the summer. She agreed that destroying the monuments isn’t the best solution.

“It was important for these statues to be removed from a place glorifying them,” Zimmerman wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “However... it is always painful seeing its destruction.”

She praised the public call for ideas in the online portal.

“The public ultimately spurred getting the monuments removed, so letting them have a say in what goes there next is really smart,” she wrote. “It helps create some sort of dialogue between the public art process and the people it will impact.”

Junior Clarissa Chen spent the summer living in Baltimore while participating in the University’s Community Impact Internship Program and said she was proud of the city for acting so quickly to remove the monuments.

“I don’t think we should forget about a part of American history,” she said. “But I also don’t think it’s right for us to put someone on a monument who killed thousands for slavery.”

After working in city government this summer, Chen believes it is important for Baltimore to include members of the community in the next steps.

“A lot of times, governments make decisions and ... the public doesn’t feel included. The public would feel more respected and appreciated if their input is [taken] in,” she said.

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