RACC Team and Public Art Committee to outline next steps for community review process
Today the Regional Arts & Culture Council Board of Directors endorsed a recommendation that toppled and removed monuments not be returned to their previous location and to inform City officials of this recommendation. The recommendation not to return statues to their previous location does not mean that works will be permanently removed from the City of Portland’s public collection. The statues include: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt: Rough Rider, Harvey Scott, and Promised Land. City officials have decided that Elk will return to downtown Portland.
RACC’s Public Art Committee (PAC) made the recommendation not to return the five statues to their previous locations. The committee oversees and guides Public Art Program policies for the selection, placement, and maintenance of works of art acquired through the Percent for Art Program and other public/private programs RACC manages. The committee is made up of artists, art administrators, and community stakeholders. The PAC recommendation is consistent with recent action by the Portland City Council recommending new public art representing more diverse cultural identities and histories for the South Park Blocks. The George Washington statue cannot be returned to its former site as that site is privately owned and the owners do not wish to have it in that location anymore.
The recommendation not to return these statues to their previous locations raises the question of what happens next. Should the monuments be assigned a new home? Should all of them remain in the public collection? According to RACC’s Public Art Program policies, consideration of these questions requires meaningful community engagement. The Board directed the RACC team and PAC to come back to them at a meeting in October with a process for engaging stakeholders in a conversation about what happens next with each statue.
How can the community get involved?
Community engagement and stakeholder input are part of the process. Follow this link to provide input. Sign up for RACC’s online newsletter to be notified of future engagement opportunities at www.racc.org/about/newsletter/
Public Art Program Background
The Public Art Committee, in consultation with city leadership, reviewed the Public Art Program policies and criteria as they relate to donation and deaccession of memorials, monuments, and statues. The PAC updated those policies to align with RACC’s mission, vision, and values and the City’s value of antiracism. The updated policy states that public artworks can be removed if the “subject or impact of an artwork is significantly at odds with values of antiracism, equity, inclusion.” They also expanded circumstances that can lead to the removal of a piece of artwork, if it becomes a rallying place for “gatherings centered on racist or bigoted ideology.” RACC’s board endorsed the policy changes in May 2021.
An independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, we support greater Portland’s creative economy by providing equitable funding and services to artists and art organizations; managing and growing our diverse, nationally acclaimed public art program; and developing long-lasting public and private partnerships. For more information visit racc.org.
Heather Nelson Kent
Communications Manager, Regional Arts & Culture Council