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Members of the Boston Art Commission voted unanimously to remove Boston’s copy of Thomas Ball's “Emancipation Memorial” sculpture, which portrays an enslaved man at the feet of Abraham Lincoln.
After nearly two hours of public comment Tuesday night, with people arguing both for and against keeping the statue, the board charged its staff to look at next steps for the sculpture, including where to store it temporarily and what could replace it.
The bronze sculpture currently sits on city property in Park Square. It would cost at least $15,000 to remove, according to Karin Goodfellow, the city's director of public art.
All board members agreed on giving more context, education, and transparency to the sculpture’s history and future. The board said it did not plan to remove the piece of art completely from the city’s collection. Removal could mean loaning it to a museum or putting it into storage.
The commission said it would plan to hold a public event to “acknowledge the statue’s history and inform the public.”
During public comment, many local residents said the sculpture made them uncomfortable, while others said they felt it reinforced a racist and paternalistic view of Black people.
In her closing remarks, commission member and artist Ekua Holmes said, “What I heard today is that it hurts to look at this piece. And I feel like on the Boston landscape we should not have works that bring shame to any group of people that are citizens, not just of Boston, but of the United States."
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