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.