Public art display creates controversy in MS

Public art display creates controversy in MS

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - People in the city of Laurel are torn over a statue that some deem racist.

Residents came before the city leaders during Friday’s City Council meeting with concerns over a new statue on the intersection of North 5th and Central Avenue.

Faye Jackson said she’s lived in Laurel her whole life and was shocked when neighbors told her the news.

“I said what is it and they said it’s slaves," Jackson said. "When you first look, they have tools in their hand and it just looks like men that are working. Because of the colors of the statues, it looks like black men that are working on a slave box. "

People also came to the defense of the statue.

Amy Luker, owner of Pinehurst Rathskeller Art Gallery, said the statue is not black or white.

“I understand that some things are offensive, but that’s if that thing is actually related to what’s making it offensive and it’s not,” Luker said.

Chad Edwards said he is a good friend of the artist behind the artwork and said it’s “embarrassing” for anyone to think the statue is racist.

“To even look at it and see a color is beyond absurd,” Edwards said. “It’s rust. It’s iron that rusted outside. It’s a human body form...a stick figure.”

When reaching out to the sculptor Jason Kimes, he said it’s all a misunderstanding.

“I can’t say anymore than what I made it for," he said.

Kimes said he was contacted by a manufacturing facility in South Carolina to create a piece that will honor the workforce of that company.

“You got the strong muscled guy with the big hammer in the middle ready to do the job that he’s doing,” Kimes said. “You got another character on the side with the ladle who seems like he’s more in charge or quasi supervisor. You got the guy on the other end, the thinner person, that to me appears to be the younger upstart who’s learning from the old men.”

Kimes said his work of the same tile, rust color technique had been in cities across the country, such as New Orleans and Hattiesburg.

The art piece was brought to downtown Laurel because Kimes said a local pastor asked him to display it until it’s ready to be shipped out to it’s permanent home in South Carolina in March.

“The whole reason I make this stuff is to be seen,” Kimes said when asked why downtown was chosen to put the sculpture.

Kimes believes art is meant to ask a question, but the question of whether or not his work is racist was not it.

Those against the statue said they would’ve liked a notice from the city before it went up.

“Give us some knowledge,” Jackson said. “Put it in the paper and we will receive these gifts....That’s all we need. We just need to know the news.”

During the city council meeting, city leaders did not make a decision on whether or not to take the statues down early.

Kimes said he will be meeting with the woman that argued against his art piece to try to understand her point of view.

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