After receiving a protest letter from the FBI Agents Association, American University removed a nine foot statue of Leonard Peltier by San Francisco-based artist Rigo 23 (pictured in this post’s thumbnail) on Tuesday, January 3. The statue was originally scheduled to remain on the campus grounds through April 2017. The University had hosted a series of discussions presented by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee the week of December 5 leading up to the statue’s dedication on December 9.
American University issued the following statement with regards to the premature removal of the statue:
American University Statement Regarding the Peltier Statue
American University strongly supports the mission of museums to present thought-provoking art to inform and educate. Within the AU Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, we have hosted numerous exhibits of political and sometimes controversial art.
The decision to host the Peltier statue required a more thorough assessment of the implications of placing the piece in a prominent, public space outside the museum. With the benefit of a fuller review, we have made a decision to remove the piece from this location.
The subject matter and placement of the piece improperly suggested that American University has assumed an advocacy position of clemency for Mr. Peltier, when no such institutional position has been taken. Further, the nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community.
The AU Museum has offered to work with the artist to find an alternative organization that would be willing to exhibit the art.
We affirm our commitment to the AU Museum and will ensure that its mission is fully supported in the Katzen Arts Center.
In an interview with Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Rigo 23 expressed confusion and dismay at the University’s actions stating “As for explaining what happened, Amy, I’m really at a loss to be able to explain what happened. You know, the attitude of the university and the position put forth by the president is so devoid of logic that I really do not understand.” Read the full interview HERE.
(Photo of Rigio 23 by Tristan Savatier. via Wikimedia Commons.)