Charleston History Commission Recommends Loan of Calhoun Statue to LA Art Show | News
After spending a year and a half in storage, the 125-year-old statue of John C. Calhoun could move south to west.
The Charleston History Commission voted 7-4 on December 15 to recommend that the city loan the statue to a group of Los Angeles-based art exhibitors. Final approval will have to come from city council, possibly in January.
“Having John C. Calhoun is great, but having Charleston’s participation given the Emanuel Church massacre as the start of the conversation about decommissioning these monuments is the most important thing in my mind,” said exhibition co-curator Hamza Walker. Post and courier.
Congressman and Vice President, Calhoun died years before the Southern States launched Confederation, but he is also remembered as a staunch defender of slavery and, to some, represents the dark past. from the city.
In June 2020, city leaders voted to remove the statue. For weeks before the announcement, the city saw almost daily protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Tentatively called âMonuments,â the exhibit has been in the works since 2018, Walker said. It took on new impetus following Floyd’s death.
Starting in fall 2023 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition will feature disused Civil War and pre-war monuments alongside newly commissioned works of art. Some existing works of art will be incorporated into the exhibition, and they may also travel to other museums.
So far, Walker and his project manager, Hannah Burstein, have received approval from cities to borrow nearly a dozen other disused pre-war and Confederate-era monuments.
Some members of the commission rejected the idea that Calhoun’s legacy should be strictly linked to slavery, while others said it was the part of his legacy that had the most impact today. hui.
“His portrait was not put on Marion Square because of his views on slavery,” said Dale Theiling, a member of the commission, who voted against lending the statue to exhibitors.
âNow someone wants to take him across nine state borders and three time zones to present him as a racist,â he said.
Commission member Mickey Rosenblum, who voted in favor of the proposal, rebuffed comments that place Calhoun’s other accomplishments at the same level of importance as his promotion of slavery.
âYou just can’t make him a wonderful person. He’s responsible for the death and torture of these people, and you can’t hide it,â Rosenblum said. “This is the truth, and our job on the history commission is to tell the people the truth.”
At a meeting in November, committee members postponed a vote on whether to recommend the statue’s loan for one month.
Some members of the commission disputed that the art exhibitors planned to publish a catalog to accompany the exhibition, explaining the historical context of each of the statues.
“In my opinion, we should continue our apolitical approach to the proposals,” said commissioner David McCormack, who voted against sending the statue to the exhibition.
Other members of the commission were in favor of the proposal and wary of any suggestion that the catalog entry should not highlight the historical figure’s impacts on black Americans.
“I know what has happened in my 73 years here,” said commissioner and city councilor Robert Mitchell. “My mom and dad, grandma and grandpa told me about it a long time ago, and they’re older than everyone here today.”
Mitchell, who is black, also referred to the threats city council faced when the statue was taken down.
“It’s getting sickening,” said Mitchell, who voted in favor of lending the statue.
The exhibition organizers drew up a list of scholars who they hoped would agree to write the catalog description of Calhoun’s statue. The Conservatives agreed to ask Thomas Brown, a professor at the University of South Carolina, to write the passage. The description will also come back to the history committee for approval, the exhibitors wrote in an email to the committee.
âWe are looking for partners for the exhibition,â Walker said. “It’s not about borrowing the item as a formal loan and that’s the end of the relationship.”
Besides Rosenblum and Mitchell, commissioners Angela Mack, Michael Allen, Nicholas Butler, Wilmot Fraser and Harlan Greene voted in favor of the proposal. Commissioners Robert Rosen and Peg Eastman joined Theiling and McCormack in voting no. Commission members Damon Fordham and Harry Griffin, who is also a city councilor, were absent.
To reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.