The Peoria Park District Board of Trustees voted 4-2 on Sept. 23 to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus in Laura Bradley Park. In the last week, the statue has been removed.
It’s one of many Columbus statues to come down in the United States this year. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot had three removed in Chicago this summer.
Now a question lingers: what should replace these statues?
According to WCBU, the Peoria Park District will convert the area into a green space. Though this is a simple solution, that space can still be utilized as a dedicated site. One possibility that enters the conversation is honoring feminist Betty Friedan, who grew up in the area.
However, there may be a slew of figures that could be chosen to enter a statue form. But considering most of the staffers on The Scout do not hail from the Peoria area and have limited knowledge of the area’s history, there is not a name we are comfortable endorsing.
Despite this, we would like to offer an alternative to the unoccupied space in Laura Bradley Park and other sites all over the country.
Instead of literally putting one individual on a pedestal for a nondescript amount of time, it may be wise to consider a rotating installation that highlights multiple individuals through various mediums.
Erecting a statue is a laborious, costly and time-consuming task to honor just one person, so this rotating installation would open up the possibilities of other forms of artistic homages.
If we use the example of Friedan, space could be occupied with a mural painted by a local artist or commission by the Park District. That piece could then stand for a set amount of time and get replaced with another installation highlighting another individual; perhaps an homage to Peoria-native and NBA champion Shaun Livingston.
This idea can also include multiple people on one piece rather than focusing on an individual.
Providing the option to memorialize individuals or groups by means other than a statue will provide space for creativity and pique the interests of residents. Statues tend to have a reveal ceremony for the community to give their “ooooh’s”, “ahhh’s” and artistic critiques. Imagine having these ceremonies more frequently with a new creative depiction each time.
While this solution does provide an opportunity for a variety of subjects to be honored, it can also be a costly endeavor to constantly rotate a piece. However, if the community chooses to, they may be able to permanently install older pieces around the community. Therefore, increasing community art and beautification.
The idea here is not to see how many people can be honored; it points more to the acknowledgment that not one individual deserves a permanent exhibit of greatness.
So as we look back on Columbus this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, he and others who have an excessive number of statues may be able to step aside for a while and let individuals who were valued at the local level take a stand.