Something is as upside down as the weather. We have somebody funding one of the state’s best sculptors to create a sculpture of Asaiah Bates who was one of Homer’s most famous and beloved residents in his life. We have a public park that Asaiah donated the land for in the middle of town.We are a town that values the arts and is well known for the quality and quanity of art that comes out of it. Assaih himself was known to pose for local artists. And we have individuals wishing to stop the creation or display of this public sculpture because? They seem to be saying that Asaiah wouldn’t want to be portrayed as a sculpture. They seem to be saying that he wouldn’t want this art in the parkland he donated to the public. Someone is saying this might make him a religious figure and thus shouldn’t be on public land. That same someone seems to be saying, as a libertarian, that art shouldn’t be put in public places.
First, I won’t pretend to have a direct line to what Asaiah might or might not have said if he were alive. That’s too close to what many religions do with iconic dead people. I can’t imagine Brother Asaiah saying he wanted to be depicted as a statue in a local park. But then I can’t imagine Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela saying that either. They are now all subjects of great public sculptures. Portrait art is not for the dead. They gave up the right to object when they left. It is for the living and for future generations. It is a way to honor and remember great people and an image of the individual can do that way more effectively than a memorial fund.
Second, shouldn’t a libertarian be thrilled that public tax money isn’t being used to fund this and even better that it could go onto land that wasn’t paid for by public tax funds but was a private donation? Shouldn’t they be all about individuals supporting and creating art that is for the public in public places without having the government ( or anyone else) put constrictive restrictions on it?
Third, Brother Asaiah was not exactly a private recluse. He wrote more letters to the editor of this paper than probably anyone. He spoke at more council meetings than anyone else ever has. He was kind and gentle and calming and I think we can all agree that the last thing he would have wanted was to have his friends arguing about what he would have said. If he truly felt strongly about this when he was alive, he certainly had opportunities to say something.
What’s left is our memories of a great man, and an opportunity to leave something the next generation can appreciate.