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Photo: Amanda Matthews/Prometheus Art Bronze Foundry & Metal Fabrication
A clay model of a statue of Netti Depp, the first woman to be honored with a public monument in Kentucky.

Now that we’re removing statues and other honors for men whose dark side has become obvious (think segregationist president Woodrow Wilson, whose name has been removed from an institution at Princeton), how do we choose who deserves a statue? It’s possible some of the women and minorities we want to honor are known not only for praiseworthy things but also more troubling activities or associations. People are complicated.

Hakim Bishara reports at Hyperallergic, “Next year, Kentucky will raise a public statue of a woman for the first time in its history. The monument will honor Nettie Depp, a Kentucky educator who died in 1932.

“The statue will be unveiled at the Kentucky Capitol on August 21 of 2021, Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman announced in a speech on August 5. It will be the first monument honoring a woman on state-owned land.

‘A failure to observe women in places of honor narrows the vision of our youth and reveals a lack of understanding of American history regarding women’s work, sacrifice and the immeasurable and timeless contribution to society’s advancement,’ Coleman said.

“The statue is designed by Amanda Matthews, a sculptor from Lexington, Kentucky, who spent years lobbying state officials for a monument honoring a woman.

“In 2015, Matthews founded the nonprofit the Artemis Initiative to campaign for a monument for Depp upon the recommendation of Kentucky’s Commission on Women. Matthews is Depp’s great-great niece (another distant relative of Depp’s is Kentucky-born actor Johnny Depp, who is her a great-great-nephew).

“Later in 2015, the Kentucky Human Rights Commission backed Matthews’s campaign with a resolution encouraging the state and local governments to erect statues of women of historical significance and outstanding achievements. A year later, Kentucky’s Historic Properties Advisory Commission started reviewing the Artemis Initiative’s proposal for a statue of Depp, and in 2017 it voted unanimously in favor of the monument.

“ ‘My hope is that this sculpture will break through the obstinate norm that has held fast in Kentucky since 1792 and move the needle toward a more inclusive future for women, minorities, and children,’ Matthews told Hyperallergic in an email.

“Last year, Matthews designed a sculpture of Alice Dunnigan for the Seek Museum in Russellville, Kentucky. Dunnigan was an award-winning Kentucky journalist and the first Black woman credentialed to cover the White House. … Presently, along with her sculpture of Depp, she is completing a monument for investigative journalist Nellie Bly, which will be installed next year at New York City’s Roosevelt Island.

“Depp was a Kentucky teacher and principal. In 1913, she became the first woman to be elected as Superintendent of Barren County Schools … During her tenure, Depp built 13 new schoolhouses, repaired 50 others, dug water wells, fought for fair pay for teachers, and promoted stricter enforcement of the Compulsory Education Laws to reduce literacy rates.

“After finishing her four-year term in 1917 (Depp declined to run for a second term), she went on to become principal at Cave City School until 1923. She spent the last decade of her career as a teacher in Scottsville from 1923 to 1931. …

“But there are questions to be raised about Depp’s legacy. As superintendent, she was tasked with overseeing 100 segregated schools across the county. There are no historical records that explicitly show her stances about segregation, and Depp does not appear to have advocated for integration. However, she is believed to have worked to improve learning conditions for Black students. …

“ ‘In the context of Kentucky in 1915, this should not be understated,’ Matthews told Hyperallergic. ‘Barren County Kentucky was located in solidly Confederate territory only a few decades prior. Depp’s public advocacy on [better Black schools] was groundbreaking, and possibly even dangerous.’ …

“However, in 1920, Depp helped write an endorsement for President Woodrow Wilson’s re-election for a third term in her capacity as a member of the Resolutions Committee of the Barren County Democratic Party’s local convention. … Wilson supported the resegregation of federal offices and held virulently white supremacist views, according to historians. In 2015, Princeton University removed his name from its School of Public and International Affairs. …

“ ‘It is honestly a disappointment to me that she publicly endorsed Wilson’s candidacy, but there is evidence that her first and most passionate interest was improved education for all children, and she never wavered on her stance on that,’ Matthews said. …

“ ‘I have no intent or interest to whitewash Depp’s history or that of my ancestors, but I do have an interest in bringing more equity to those who are marginalized,’ said Matthews. ‘Nettie Depp may not have done everything right, but she certainly did some things right.’ ”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Glenn Castellano
A design by Meredith Bergmann of suffragists Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the first Central Park statue depicting real women.

Other than fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, females have not been represented among Central Park’s statues. A new sculpture, of suffragists Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, is the first step in changing the all-male array of historical figures in the park.

Nadja Sayej reports at the Guardian, “In 1995, the artist Meredith Bergmann was working on a film set in Central Park when she noticed something was off.

“ ‘I noticed then there were no statues of women,’ said Bergmann. ‘There was a wonderful Alice in Wonderland sculpture, but there were no sculptures of actual women of note and accomplishment.’

“Now, 23 years later, Bergmann has created the winning design for a bronze statue of New York suffragists Elizabeth C Stanton and Susan B Anthony, who fought for women’s right to vote. Bergmann’s creation will be erected in Central Park on 26 August 2020, coinciding with the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment ‘Votes for Women.’ …

“There are only five public statues of real women in New York City (excluding fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose), while there are 145 sculptures of men, including statues of William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven, who are both in Central Park.

“ ‘We are happy to have broken the bronze ceiling to create the first statue of real women in the 164-year history of Central Park,’ said Pam Elam, the president of the Monumental Women campaign, which is backing the statue. …

“The statue has a long scroll that snakes from a desk down to a ballot box, which is meant to represent the change they made to the 19th amendment – but it doesn’t stop there. The scroll will detail the voices of over 20 other women, including Ida B Wells-Barnett and Sojourner Truth, with quotes written chronologically from 1848 to 2020. …

“While the quotes are currently kept under wraps, a few potential teasers have been posted on the group’s Instagram account. For example, Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman, once said: ‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining, you make progress by implementing ideas,’ while Maya Angelou once said: ‘We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.’ …

“[Says] Elam, ‘Women’s history is such a treasure chest of inspirational stories, it gives us courage to keep fighting for women’s rights and achieve equality in our lives. We want to get their stories out there for people to be energized by their contributions.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

I’m in New York this week to be with my sister as she winds up six weeks of radiation and chemo. If I see any statues of women, I’ll be sure to share a picture.

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It’s not fair to make fun of Russians in general when only a few have a problem with Michelangelo’s “David,” but this is a funny story.

Claire Voon wrote at Hyperallergic in July that the city of St. Petersburg would vote in August on whether to cover the statue’s nakedness.

Here’s what she said, “St. Petersburg residents will vote on how to dress a replica statue of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ that came to the city in May, following a complaint from a woman who said his nudity ‘spoils the city’s historic appearance and warps children’s souls.’

“Erected as part of the ongoing Michelangelo. World Creation exhibition at St. Anne’s Lutheran Church in central St. Petersburg, the 16-foot-tall plastic copy compelled the outraged local to pen a letter last week to the Children’s Right’s Ombudsman, as Lenta first reported. …

“While the online post notes that officials have tried to convince Inna that many other naked statues have stood around town for years, she said she still intends to write to all relevant authorities to achieve an ‘early elimination of the giant.’ …

“The organizers of the show have been quite accommodating, though … This week, they launched the monthlong ‘Dress David’ initiative, which invites people to play stylist to the famous nude Renaissance work and submit ideas for outfits, complete with explanations for why David should appear in the proposed garb. An online voting session for selected concepts will open on August 16, with a winner announced a week later. Voters will also have the option to leave the statue as Michelangelo’s original has stood for centuries. …

“In the meantime, organizers have crudely taped a black circular object over the statue’s offending member to protect the untainted souls of passing schoolchildren.” More.

After a bit of Googling, I finally discovered how the voting went, here.

Photo: @misha.ivanov/Instagram
Some Russians actually think this sloppy covering of a David replica is a good idea.

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I’m starting off here with four Providence photos: the railing at the Arcade, a message promoting the city as the “creative capital,” trompe l’oeil windows on a brick wall (note the page turning in the lower right corner), and a frieze near the Dean Hotel harking back to a club called Ginger’s.

Next we have three views of Minuteman National Park in Concord on a springlike February day. Seated on the river bank close by was a solitary figure sending wistful melodies from his wooden recorder out over the flood. I hesitated to disturb him and didn’t take a picture.

Buckets for maple sugaring are appearing all over town. It isn’t really spring yet, though: the daffodils came from the supermarket.

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You can’t take it with you.

One thing you can’t with you is your reputation, the reputation you want. Other forces take it over.

I’m told that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have hated the posthumous honors showered on him by his native city, St.Paul, Minnesota. And now an irritated Edgar Allan Poe is turning over in his grave with all the attention from Boston and the newly dedicated statue near Boston Common.

Katharine Seelye in the NY Times reviews the history. She reminds us that Poe was born in Boston “in 1809 and published some of his most famous works here. But he considered Boston writers self-important and preachy, and he said so. And Boston returned the sentiment. Ralph Waldo Emerson dismissed Poe as a “jingle man” for his simplistic style, as if the author of ‘The Raven’ were writing television ads for toothpaste. …

“Other cities have long claimed a piece of the itinerant Poe. Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Richmond, Va., all have Poe monuments or museums of one sort or another.

“Boston never bothered. Not without reason. Poe sneered at the city’s luminaries. Riffing off the Frog Pond in the Boston Common, Poe called the local swells Frogpondians,’ their moralistic works sounding like the croaking of so many frogs. As for residents here, they ‘have no soul,’ he said. ‘Bostonians are well bred — as very dull persons very generally are.’

“Now the city is burying the hatchet,” More here.

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