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Sunday, February 05, 2023
Sculpture county commission

The commission budgeted $40,000 to build a replacement sculpture where a Confederate statue stood until 2017.

The ground where a Confederate statue once stood is empty. It has been for three years.

The Alachua County Commission rejected all proposals to fill the space outside of the Alachua County Administration Building, located on 12 SE First St. with a sculpture, Tuesday.

The commission budgeted $40,000 to build a replacement sculpture where a Confederate statue stood until 2017, said county manager Michele Lieberman. The statue, which was nicknamed Old Joe, stood for 113 years before the county commission voted to remove it. It was given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the same organization that erected it in 1904.

The decision to build a replacement comes after calls to remove Confederate monuments have garnered national attention. This growth is linked to the nationwide protests against police brutality that started after the murder of George Floyd.

The commission reviewed seven proposals. County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said she wasn’t excited about any of them.

“$40,000 is a lot of money to go to one piece of artwork,” Wheeler said. “With the artists we have in our community, we can come up with something a little more exciting.”

County Commission Charles Chestnut said he also wasn’t inspired by the proposals.

“I know when something looks inspiring and reflects the community,” Chestnut said. “I have not seen that.”

While they denied all current submissions, the commission voted to reopen the project for bids. They will require artists to follow a specific direction in future project proposals.

The commission instructed the Alachua County Arts Council to create a concept contest where contestants submit a proposal about what theme the project should follow, Lieberman said. Artists would have to incorporate the winning proposal’s theme in their work.

County Commissioner Mike Byerly said he wants residents to enjoy the sculpture while walking by or driving past it.

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“It needs to be something that can be enjoyed at both scales and both frames of movement,” Byerly said. “You shouldn't have to walk up to it and begin reading to get anything out of it.”

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