Editor’s Note: The “Update” section provides the latest information on news items that Gazette Chicago has covered in previous editions.
The City of Chicago removed the statue of Christopher Columbus at Arrigo Park and announced a project to address the history associated with the City’s memorials, monuments, and other municipal art collections. The project provides a vehicle to address Chicago’s racial history.
“This effort is not just about a single statue or mural, but how we create a platform to channel our city’s dynamic civic energy to purposefully reflect our values as Chicagoans and uplift the stories of our city’s residents,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The project is assembling an advisory committee. Composed of artists, historians, and elected officials from around the city, the committee will review Chicago’s public art inventory and identify artworks that may be problematic. The committee then will produce a report that recommends next steps for the existing collection as well as processes for commissioning monuments moving forward. The list of committee members’ names was not available at this writing.
“As we move forward together as a city, it is important to have open, honest, and, at times, spirited debates about our history—the type that offer Chicagoans a chance to share their perspectives in a safe and welcomed manner,” said Michael Kelly, general superintendent and CEO, Chicago Park District.
The project aims to have a final set of recommendations for addressing existing and new memorials and monuments by the end of 2020.
Among the committee members are at least one representative from the Italian-American community, Sergio Giangrande, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA).
“Our Italian-American community is hurt,” said Lissa Druss, spokesperson for JCCIA. “We did not want the statues to come down, but in the interest of public safety for all Chicagoans and the police department, we understand why the City temporarily removed them. The key word is temporary…. Christopher Columbus is incredibly important to our Italian American community. The JCCIA only supports the Columbus statue returning.”
The Little Italy Chicago Neighborhood Association (LICNA), agrees with JICCA’s view. “In light of the unrest that was centered around these statues toward law enforcement and the public, it was an impossible situation to control safely,” said a LICNA spokesperson. While LICNA wants the statue returned to the same location at Arrigo Park eventually, the group continues to “seek and welcome the opportunity to work with members of the community.”
In an open letter to the Little Italy community, LICNA said recent actions of Italian-American individuals or groups at the Columbus Piazza in Arrigo Park do not represent LICNA’s views, noting that “LICNA honors the heritage of Little Italy immigrants as well as the heritage of the many ethnic groups and races that make this neighborhood home. LICNA maintains and promotes this unique diverse community as an asset to the city.”
LICNA leaders say the group welcomes the opportunity to work with community members to create educational, engaging, welcoming spaces in Arrigo Park and make exhibits that tell the full Columbus story, with content and design provided by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s History Department as well as its College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts. LICNA also seeks to add counterpoints around the community’s diverse cultures and use the concrete surrounds and parts of plaza space, potentially incorporating murals and a sculpture garden. At this time, LICNA is not considering housing the statue in a museum or other location, nor does it advocate another Italian-American historical figure to replace the Columbus statue.
For more information on LICNA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on JCCIA, go to www.jccia.com.