Wichita State still plans to install piece made by artist who shot dog 30 years ago
Wichita ? Wichita State University still plans to install a sculpture by Tom Otterness on campus, despite discovering that Otterness was filmed 30 years ago shooting and killing a dog.
“I can tell you at this stage the commission is going forward,” said Ted Ayres, the university’s general counsel. “We are planning to install the piece in 2008.”
However, Ayres said, that decision is not final.
“We want to open the door for people to express an opinion,” he said. “I think it is important to have discussions and see where that goes and then make decisions.”
Ayres said the university had planned to release information about the discovery when classes resumed after spring break.
The Wichita Eagle learned of the situation on Friday and reported on it in Saturday’s editions.
Otterness, a Wichita native who now lives in New York, already has one sculpture on display in his hometown: “Dreamers Awake,” outside the Wichita Art Museum.
The piece commissioned by Wichita State is a giant bronze millipede. The $450,000 commission was awarded last year. Another $150,000 would be needed to pay for shipping and insurance.
Otterness’ studio released a statement on Friday.
“In 1977, I was a young artist having a very rough time,” the statement read. “I had anger at myself and at the world. What I did was symbolic of how I was feeling internally and it is something I would never do today.
“I have struggled with my action for 30 years and continue to do so to this day. It is my hope that my friends in my hometown of Wichita will come to accept and embrace the giant millipede, which I am very proud to have join Wichita State’s prestigious sculpture collection.”
Matthew Goad, a candidate for the Student Government Association presidency and an opponent of using student fees to commission art, found the incident on the Wikipedia Web site.
“I came out with it and started passing it along,” Goad said Friday. “I’m like, ‘Hey, not only is this an unwise way to spend student fees, but look at what we’re buying here.'”
The Student Government Association has pledged $150,000 to the sculpture and has already paid $50,000 of that.
Patricia McDonnell, director of Wichita State’s Ulrich Museum of Art, said officials realized the information about Otterness’ filmed act would have to be made public.
“We know Otterness as a public artist and a sculptor,” she said. “That he was involved in this particular work of course came as a surprise.
“Immediately, we appreciated that this would not have the best public relations consequences.”