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Columbus considering next steps for statue of namesake

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A statue of Christopher Columbus sits outside of the city of Columbus, Wisconsin, in July of 2020.
Photo courtesy Lisa Cestkowski
A statue of Christopher Columbus stands outside of the city of Columbus, Wisconsin, in July of 2020.

COLUMBUS (WKOW) -- The city of Columbus is considering what to do with a statue of its namesake recently removed from its pedestal near the city's western entrance.

In mid August, city leaders issued a request for proposal asking the public to submit their ideas for what should be done with a nine-foot fiberglass likeness of Christopher Columbus.

"The City of Columbus is seeking proposals for the re-use of a large fiberglass statue of Christopher Columbus," the request said. "The City is interested to consider how community and cultural organizations may re-use the statue in or around the City of Columbus, although parties outside of the Columbus area who have a serious interest in obtaining the statue may also submit proposals for consideration."

Proposals were due in to city hall by Sept. 4. Staff are now reviewing the submissions, a process they are scheduled to complete Sept. 11, according to a document outlining the timeline.

If all goes as planned, the city will give the statue over to its new as-yet-to-be-determined owner on Nov. 20.

The criteria city staff are considering include the proposal's feasibility and the "local benefit" each proposal is judged to bestow.

"How does the submission benefit the City of Columbus?" the request for proposal asks. "Is there an educational or cultural component to the proposal?"

The statue became a flashpoint for debate in the small city of 5,000 residents earlier in the summer. A local high school student circulated a petition calling for the statue's removal. Proponents of taking down the statue argued it sent the wrong message about the community's values and lacked historical context in its position on the side of Highway 16/60 near the city's western edge.

Several Columbus statues have been removed or torn down in recent months around the country as the nation considers the Italian navigator's legacy from a perspective informed by the on-going racial justice movement.

Christopher Columbus' late 15th and early 16th century voyages to the Americas kicked-off an age of colonization and suffering for native peoples that included slavery and devastating diseases brought from the Old World.

Opponents to taking down the statue circulated their own petition and argued that removing the likeness amounted to the erasure of history. Popular conception regarded the Italian explorer as having discovered the New World when he landed in the Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492.

The city of Columbus took down the statue in early July. It had stood on its pedestal for several decades after being erected in the lead up to the community's celebrating the 400th anniversary of its namesake's first voyage to the Americas.

Ownership of the statue and the land it sat upon transferred to the city in 2012. In 2015, the state Department of Transportation expanded its right-of-way along Highway 16/60 and took ownership of the land. The statue remained the city's property.

The Columbus city council's Committee of the Whole is scheduled to review and discuss the submitted proposals at its Sept. 15 meeting.

JT Cestkowski

Social Media Content Producer/Desk Editor

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