Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Harry Proposition

Drove by Union Station today, saw the empty pedestal out front, and wondered when Harry was going to show up.

In September 2005, six-some years and a whole writing career ago, I went to a news conference in front of the station.

There was a printed handout. There was a maquette (mock-up, to you and me and pretty much everyone who didn't come out of the womb speaking Sculpturese). There was going to be a 26-foot statue of the 33rd president, right there in front of the station, and I walked back across the street and wrote a story to that effect. (One of my better leads, too, if I might say so.)

A few of those handouts might still be in existence. The maquette is ... well, more on that in a bit.

But coming up on six years after its projected dedication, the 26-foot-tall statue still looks like a 26-foot-tall pile of air.

In May 2006, the preservation committee at Union Station said, "Hey, nobody asked us if this was OK," and put the brakes on the project.

And so the whole effort remains parked, even though the maquette has been on display at the Jackson County Courthouse since early last year.

This much you already knew. The question now (I know, I'm full of 'em lately) is this:

What can be done to get the project moving forward?

Well, first, a place for the statue has to be secured. If the preservation committee remains recalcitrant (fine, short-sighted), then perhaps a spot can be found across the way on the Liberty Memorial grounds. (You'd think people could tell the difference between, say, painting the columns blaze orange and putting up a statue of a revered local figure, but let's move on.)

Next, someone's going to have to pay for it.

Money's tight (another recurring theme here), and it's debatable whether public funds should be spent on a big piece of monumental art right now. But here's the funny thing: People still have pennies, and we don't always know what to do with them.

Bit by bit, cent by cent, coffee-can donation holder by coffee-can donation holder, the necessary funds could be raised without tapping local, state or federal coffers. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but even slow and steady progress is better than waiting on hold.

This next bit might not go over so well. If the project goes back into motion, Bruce Wolfe -- the California sculptor who first won the commission -- should get the job if he still wants it. Matter of principle, and all that, and Wolfe already has a local presence with bronzes of former KCMO mayor Ilus Davis and late Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.

However, if Wolfe passes this time, let's keep the search for Harry 2.0 local, shall we?

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