CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The City of Charleston’s Commission on History voted in favor of sending the John C. Calhoun statue that previously stood in Marion Square to be featured as part of an exhibit in a California museum.
“We need to take it from the dark place, the sunken place, but to put it in a place where it will be joined by others,” says Michael Allen, one of the city’s committee members.
The recommendation will now be taken up by the full Charleston City Council. Members will vote on a final decision next week.
The statue has been in storage since it was removed from its pedestal in June 2020, with an understanding that it would be placed securely in a museum or educational center.
Several educational institutions and museums, though, have refused the statue.
A letter addressed to Mayor John Tecklenburg in June 2021, which comes from the director of a Los Angeles visual-arts center, suggested the statue would make “an excellent addition” to a new exhibit titled ‘MONUMENTS’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles.
“We’d like to extend that same level of participation, cooperation and participation to the city of Charleston,” says Hamza Walker with “LAXART.”
The center uses contemporary arts to present an understanding of key issues, and notes the actions of recent white supremacists, like Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine people at a historic church in Charleston, and James Alex Fields, Jr.’s actions in Charlottesville in 2017.
“These museums can be places of healing, of restoration, of learning and of experience,” says Allen.
It also mentioned Bree Newsome, who climbed to the top of a flag pole to remove the Confederate Flag from the Statehouse grounds, and the dozens of Confederate monuments that have been removed from cities in recent years.
Some committee members voted against sending the Calhoun statue to the exhibit because of the context it will be presented to the public.
“The remaining light and honor of respect cannot be extinguished by subjecting Calhoun to further ridicule in the form of a distant or traveling show,” says Dale Theiling, a committee member.
The director wrote in part:
“Though he is not a Confederate figure, Calhoun played a pivotal role in the expansion and protection of slavery in the United States and supported South Carolina’s secession in his final public speech. The historical record surrounding the creation of both this monument and the original version reflects the contentious nature of these types of monuments from their inception … the recent protest and subsequent actions taken by the Charleston City Council are an interesting case study into the ways in which communities grapple with questions of heritage and representation and how municipalities can rapidly respond to current events and the desires of their constituents.”
The center would contract with a company that specializes in rigging, transportation, installation, and de-installation if granted approval for the project.