Here is the latest chapter in public entities stepping up to the ongoing and necessary work of questioning the history we tell through public art — and changing it when necessary.
The city of Pittsburgh just removed an 800-pound bronze statue of songwriter Stephan Foster with a black man sitting at his feet playing the banjo, according to an April 26 story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
The move followed an October decision by the Pittsburgh Art Commission, which found that the statue should be removed within six months and hosted in a private, “properly contextualized” location. Many residents have held that the sculpture — showing a shoeless African-American banjo player seated at the famed composer’s feet — is condescending or outright racist. Speakers at commission meetings last year largely agreed.
These are issues confronting civic leaders around the country, including the recent debate about art in the Minnesota State Capitol which had mixed results.
Time to Change the Kentucky Derby’s Theme Song
In related news about Foster, a piece ran in the Washington Post today headlined: “‘My Old Kentucky Home’: The Kentucky Derby’s beloved, fraught singalong about slavery.” Continue reading