Confederate statues finally removed from city’s art collection

Good riddance.

Statues of Christopher Columbus, Confederate officer Dick Dowling and an angel representing the “Spirit of the Confederacy” were officially removed from the city of Houston’s art collection Wednesday.

The statues were taken down from public display two to three years ago, but the city was still responsible for funding the upkeep of the artworks, Mayor Sylvester Turner said before a unanimous vote to remove the pieces. Wednesday’s vote represented the final step in the process to remove the art from the city’s inventory, he said. The process is called deaccessioning, and a number of museums across the country have done it in recent years to get rid of controversial artwork or in some cases to make money to buy new artwork.

The city created a task force to make recommendations about which statues to keep or take down after the 2017 violent nationalist rally in Charlottesville and national calls for the removal of Confederate monuments.

The task force recommended the removal of the Dick Dowling statue near Hermann Park and the “Spirit of the Confederacy” statue in Sam Houston park, but plans to remove the statues accelerated after the racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd in June 2020.

The “Spirit of the Confederacy” statue was removed that month, and the Dowling statue was taken down a year later, according to the city.

A third statue was added to the list, however, after vandals painted the hands, head and neck of a Christopher Columbus sculpture red in June 2020. City officials removed the statue in Bell park that month, calling it a public safety hazard.

Two of the three statues have since been returned or donated. The statue of Columbus was given back to the artist, Joe Incrapera. The “Spirit of the Confederacy” statue was given to the Houston Museum of African American Culture, with help from the Houston Endowment.

See here for the last update that I have. The Dowling statue is still in a city warehouse, presumably until some other home can be found for it. This all seems like a fine outcome to me. These things can be somewhere else, where they can be properly contextualized. They don’t need to be in the city’s collection. All of this should have happened years ago, but better late than never.

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11 Responses to Confederate statues finally removed from city’s art collection

  1. Greg Shaw says:

    I get the confederate statues, but Columbus?
    Are the Republicans right?
    Does the left really hate America so much they wish it had never happened?
    Thank you Kuff.

  2. Manny says:

    Greg, would you be surprised to know that Columbus never set foot in America?

    Is it true that you eat your children, as Trump claims?

  3. Greg, you might consider using the Internet to do a little reading about Columbus, who did a lot of things that are very much not worth celebrating. And I say this as a New Yorker of Italian heritage who attended many Columbus Day parades as a kid, and marched in one or two.

  4. Flypusher says:

    It’s also interesting to note that plenty of Columbus’ contemporaries thought he was out of line.

    The whole notion of Columbus Day was about inclusion of Italian Americans. It’s eye-opening to browse what used to be said about (and even done to) them back in the early 20th Century. Current events are rhyming on that ugly history. The idea behind having Columbus Day is good; it’s just a shame that Columbus turned out to be a bad role model.

  5. Greg Shaw says:

    Thank you all for your respectful responses.
    They were thought provoking.
    Enjoy this beautiful Sunday.
    Go Astros!

  6. Manny says:

    We should have Italian-American celebrations, Irish-American, and Jewish-American celebrations, business can always do better when it is someone’s special day.

  7. David Fagan says:

    Budapest- Memento Park, discuss

  8. Flypusher says:

    According to the designer of the park, this is the purpose: “This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.”

    So this looks more like a museum, for remembering and educating, as opposed to honoring and celebrating. That doesn’t bother me.

  9. C.L. says:

    This City (and perhaps Country) is going to be left without any statues or memorials if we continue on with their/its removal because we found some evidence of unsavory behavior on the part of the subject, or just happened to be alive at the wrong time in history. Good grief, look what happened to poor John Reagan, who had the unfortunate luck of being a Postmaster General for the Confederacy (along with co-authoring a bill that established the Interstate Commerce Commission (which is helping those GA folks get charged with RICO crimes)). Couldn’t even keep his name on a local high school.

    Time to remove, apparently, the George H.W. Bush statue outside The Post for his role in (and ultimately pardoning the participants of) the Iran Contra shenanigans.

  10. Flypusher says:

    Columinst Ed Rodgers (who is conservative) has a good monument test. Now when a monument is in a place of honor (town square, major park, etc.), then it’s presumed that person did things worth celebrating, and is a role model. Rodger’s test is a child asking “Why does this person get a statue [in this place of honor]? If all you can say is “He fought for the Confederacy.”, it’s very obvious that the monument should not be in that place. That’s the low hanging fruit. Other historical figures will get more complicated, as they will have records of mixed good and bad. Presidents will probably always go into the “keep the monument” column, especially the early ones who played a role in founding the country. Bush the Elder isn’t in any realistic danger of being denied monuments. Iran Contra was bad enough to cost him my vote, but he’s way at the bottom of the controversy list.

  11. David Fagan says:

    When the Soviet statues were removed, a park was not part of the reasoning behind the removal. The statues were removed because people did not want to be reminded of their time under communist rule. The statues were moved outside the city where people could not see them and were not expected to address them. It was not until much later a park was to be designed and now it is an attraction. You still have to take a good bus ride to get there, as if the distance from the city reflects the city’s desire to get rid of them. If the City gets rid of their statues out of the present passion, then they have no complaints to reappropriate then when someone has a better idea. Most people don’t even know who the people are, or what the statute stands for. These collections can be presented in a museum setting and be a possible addition to the subject they belong to, whether that’s the civil war, reconstruction, civil rights, and modern changing attitudes toward them. They have obviously changed over time and will probably continue to change over time, where some today want to destroy them, that makes the ones that remain more rare and the possibility of a museum setting more unique.

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