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Archive for Thursday, November 11, 1999

ARTS GROUP TABLES MEMORIAL PROPOSAL

November 11, 1999

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A campaign to locate on public property in Lawrence a privately funded memorial to residents who risked or sacrificed their lives for their country and community hit a snag Wednesday.

The Lawrence Arts Commission tabled a proposal Wednesday that would place a 14-foot bronze sculpture honoring veterans, law officers and firefighters in front of the city's renovated train depot.

Commissioners and residents objected to locating the piece by artist Jim Brothers in a circular drive at Lawrence Visitors Center. Some protested because proponents of the memorial sidestepped procedures used to regulate placement of art locally in public spaces.

The commission urged Mayor Erv Hodges, representing the Douglas County Patriots Memorial Committee, to confer with members of that group to determine if alternative locales would be contemplated.

"We're seeing if they will indeed consider other sites," commission chair Ellen Williams said.

"We've been everywhere else," Hodges said in an interview.

Hodges said the group might bring the request back in December to the arts commission, an advisory board to the Lawrence City Commission. The Historic Resources Commission approved the project.

"This is a good purpose," Hodges said. "It's historical. It's a good piece."

"That's not necessarily the trouble," Williams said.

The sculpture would be paid for with private funds raised throughout the next two years. Brothers would take a year to complete the sculpture -- "From the Ashes" -- of a half man and half phoenix rising from the flames of the burning Eldridge Hotel. The goal is to complete installation in 2004, Hodges said.

Brothers said the commission should allow a memorial to be placed at the depot, even if it was the work of a different artist.

"This is the best site," he said. "I'm more than willing to say, 'Hey, put somebody else's there.'"

John Gaunt, dean of architecture at Kansas University, said the Union Pacific Depot wasn't appropriate for a memorial.

"The memorial needs power, presence and a sense of space," he said.

Ken Armitage, a Lawrence veteran of World War II, said the memorial should rest in a quiet spot away from vehicle and train traffic in North Lawrence.

"I'd like to see it in a location where it is the central focus," he said.

Lawrence artist Steve Smith said the memorial ought to be subjected to the same review process as the sculpture already installed at the depot.

The "Mobility" piece by Shellie Bender was approved under the city's "Percent for Art" program, which sets aside 2 percent of the cost of public building projects for public art. Her sculpture was chosen several years ago after a committee solicited and reviewed proposals and gathered public input.

"This might have been handled in a different way," Smith said.

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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