Museum proposes melting Lee statue to make new artwork

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A Virginia museum is proposing to melt down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that was the focus of a violent white nationalist rally in 2017 in Charlottesville and create a new work of public art.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center submitted its proposal last week to Charlottesville’s city council and city manager, The Daily Progress reported. It outlines a plan to create the new work of art through a community engagement process and then give it to the city to be installed on public land.

The proposed project called “Swords Into Plowshares,” received almost 30 letters of support from organizations and individuals.

“Recontextualization is not enough,” the museum said in the proposal, stressing that wherever the statue goes, it would remain “an icon of violent white supremacy.”

The Memory Project at UVa’s Democracy Initiative, Open Society Foundations and Virginia Humanities have already pledged funding to the project totaling $590,000. The project is estimated to cost $1.1 million, including funding for a project manager, according to Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School.

While the Jefferson School did not submit a monetary offer to the city for ownership of the statue, it would assume all financial responsibility for the project with no financial obligation from the city.

The council voted to remove the statues of Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in June. It has sought statements of interest from entities interested in ownership of one or both of the statues, which were removed in July. Dozens of entities and individuals responded.

Last month, the city solicited full proposals that would specifically re-contextualize the statues. It received five proposals. The Jefferson School is the only local entity and one of two Virginia entities that submitted proposals. The other proposals were submitted by the Ratcliffe Foundation in Russell County; the LAXART museum in Los Angeles; the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia; and a private citizen in Utopia, Texas.

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