Commission OKs $64,400 sculpture for roundabout

By Corene Brisendine

City commissioners unanimously approved a proposal for a “Peace offering on the Blue” sculpture atop the roundabout at Fourth Street and Bluemont Avenue Tuesday night.

Mayor John Matta said $20,000 was committed by the last commission to cover installation of the sculpture, with leftover funds — if any — to help cover the $64,400 cost of the sculpture itself. Commissioner Wynn Butler said he agreed to cover “up to $20,000,” but would prefer the city pay for none.

Assistant city manager Jason Hilgers said the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board could seek private donations to help cover the cost of the statue itself, or the city could actively participate in fund-raising as it did with the pavilion in City Park. He said the board needs direction from the commission on how to proceed.

Eddie Eastes, assistant director of Parks and Rec, said he was aware of “private dollars out there and they were waiting for some project to materialize.” He said the board did not think the $64,400 was an “insurmountable” amount to pay.

Tom Ford, the artist, stated he would require $20,000 in advance to start the project and the balance upon delivery, which would take about 12 weeks.

Beyond their questions about the cost of the sculpture, commissioners also questioned the historical accuracy of the piece. Those questions may lead to modifications of the eventual design.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh said she did not think the statue accurately represented a Kaw chief.  Eastes said he had been in contact with Ford, who he said had researched the Kaw Nation through the Riley County Historical Museum.

Eastes said the sculpture was probably a compilation of several pictures provided by the museum. Commissioner Usha Reddi said she had contacted Crystal Douglas, representative of the Kaw Nation in Oklahoma, who was also here for the opening of the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

Reddi said Douglas was concerned with the headdress of the sculpture, which she said made the sculpture look more like a Pawnee warrior than a Kaw Chief.

McCulloh was also concerned with the leggings. She said that from a certain angle it appeared as if the statue wasn’t wearing anything under his loincloth. She said that might not be appropriate.

Commissioners also objected to the peace pipe and the overall impression the sculpture left. They questioned whether there was any sort of “peace offering” actually involved, making the peace pipe a possible source of historical inaccuracy. Eastes said he believed the peace pipe to be an artistic representation of what Manhattan was like today—a peaceful, welcoming place to visit and live. But he said Ford was willing to work with the city to create a sculpture that was both historically accurate and aesthetically pleasing.

Matta said no matter what sculpture the city chose to install, people would form their own opinions and take away their own impressions, good or bad.

“After it’s all over, you’re still going to have a bunch of critics,” Matta said.

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