Arts panel hesitant about site of Burns statue

December 18, 2008|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

A proposal to erect a larger-than-life statue of former Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns on the Inner Harbor shoreline failed to win approval yesterday from Baltimore's Public Art Commission, after several members voiced concerns that the city could be inviting more mayoral statues along the waterfront.

The commission members said they have no objection to honoring Burns. But several said they were concerned that permitting a Burns statue on the Inner Harbor's west shore might not be enough because the panel gave preliminary approval two months ago for a statue of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer in the same area.

They said they were concerned that by approving two mayoral statues along the Inner Harbor promenade, they could be creating a "mayor's walk" that would end up not sufficiently honoring any.

"There is a big question about a mayor's walk and is that right for the city?" said member Walter Daly.

"We want to do the right thing, long term," said commission member Steve Ziger.

Panel members said they intend to come up with a comprehensive policy for addressing requests for mayoral statues, starting with Burns'.

Several suggested that a more appropriate location for a grouping of mayoral statues might be War Memorial Plaza, just east of City Hall.

Burns was Baltimore's first African-American mayor, serving for 11 months in 1987. He was president of Baltimore's City Council when Schaefer become governor and automatically became mayor. Burns died in 2003 at age 84.

Sean Burns, great-nephew of Clarence Du Burns, said the Inner Harbor is a fitting location for a statue because Burns, while on the City Council, was instrumental in changing the City Charter to permit construction of the Harborplace shopping pavilions.

Sean Burns said his group, the Clarence H. Du Burns Memorial Fund, has raised more than half of the $600,000 cost of the project and was hoping to have the statue in place by September 2009. The sculptor is Maryland artist Simmie Knox.

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