Next steps for toppled and removed monuments – Updated FAQ

Updated following RACC Board Action 10/13/2021

What is the status of statues that were removed or toppled in 2020 protests?
The statues from the City of Portland’s public art collection are secured in a temporary storage facility. This includes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt: Rough Rider, Harvey Scott, Promised Land, and Elk.

Will these statues be returned to their former locations?
RACC’s Public Art Committee (PAC) 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. When necessary, RACC also oversees the review, re-contextualizing, relocation and removal of artworks from these public collections. On Sept. 29 the RACC Board endorsed the Public Art Committee’s recommendation not to automatically return five of the toppled or removed statues to their previous locations (excluding the Elk).

What about the Elk statue?
City officials and RACC have determined separately that the Elk will return to downtown Portland. The project details, budget and timeline are being developed.

What happens next?
On Oct. 13, the RACC Board approved Monument Review Guidelines for City of Portland outlining the criteria and process for determining the next steps for these five statues. If accepted by Commissioner Rubio (City liaison to RACC) and the City Arts Program, it sets in motion a process of determining next steps for each individual monument. Should the monuments be assigned a new home? Should all of them remain in the public collection? According to the Monument Review Guidelines, consideration of these questions requires meaningful community engagement that centers the voices of community members whose culture and histories have not been represented in public spaces. Each of these statues has its own unique story and engagement may vary depending on the stakeholders.

How can the community get involved?
Community engagement and stakeholder input is required as part of the process. Please contact the City Arts Program in Portland  for the most up to date information or the office of Commissioner Rubio.

Why is RACC recommending these monuments for review?
In our role as the steward of the City of Portland and Multnomah County’s public art collections, the Regional Arts & Culture Council works intentionally with artists, community organizations, and public partners to ensure that the public’s art collection represents our diverse cultural histories and identities. As we consider the disposition of monuments toppled or removed in 2020, our mission and values guide our recommendations and consideration of next steps. Similarly, we look to the City’s adopted policies for guidance and find this recommendation to be 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.

RACC’s Public Art Committee revised policies regarding the donation and removal (deaccession) of art from the public collection. What were the major changes?
The committee, in consultation with city leadership, reviewed the Public Art Program policies and criteria as they relate to donation and deaccession (removal) 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 these changes in May 2021. The Monument Review Guidelines approved by the RACC Board are consistent with these policies.

What happens to a statue if a determination is made to remove it from the public art collection?
If a decision is made to “deaccession” an artwork (remove it from the collection), it could be traded or sold, returned to the donors, recycled or destroyed.