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Five entities submit proposals for ownership of Confederate statues

Five entities responded to the city’s Sept. 22 solicitation for proposals to re-contextualize the statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, according to city documents. Proposals were due Oct. 15.

Immediately following City Council’s vote to remove the Confederate statues in June, the city put out a Request for Statements of Interest from entities interested in ownership of one or both of the statues. Dozens of entities and individuals responded at that time.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center was the only local entity to respond. The proposal submitted to City Council and City Manager Chip Boyles outlines a plan to melt down the Lee statue and use the bronze to create a new work of public art through a community engagement process at no cost to the city. This sculpture would then be gifted to the city for installation on public land. The Jefferson School was the first to respond to the original request in June.

The Ratcliffe Foundation in Tazewell submitted a proposal including site maps for where the statues would be relocated. The foundation is a private organization that owns and maintains the Historic Ellenbrook Museum, which is the home of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. The foundation is offering $50,000 for both statues.

The foundation proposed creating and placing the statues in an outdoor museum trail called the Southwest Virginia Historical Monuments Trail, which would be located around the perimeter of the Ellenbrook Museum. The foundation previously responded to the June request.

The Ratcliffe Foundation also submitted a letter of support from their lawyer.

“Our client is not interested in simply relocating the statues and rebuilding monuments to the past. Instead, they are keen on developing a series of exhibits and programming that will appropriately display the monuments as historic artifacts,” wrote the foundation’s lawyer, Gregory Habeeb. “Using professional historians and curators, the Foundation will not only contextualize the figures themselves, but will also accurately capture and depict how and why the statues were erected in Virginia’s Postbellum culture, as well as how and why they were removed in the 21st century. In short, our client seeks to tell the full story.”

LAXART, an art museum in Los Angeles, submitted a proposal to include the statues as the centerpiece of its upcoming exhibit “MONUMENTS.” The museum is offering $100,000 for both statues.

“The exhibition will feature a selection of decommissioned Confederate monuments shown alongside works of contemporary art,” the proposal states. “In addition to contextualizing the monuments socially, historically … the exhibition will squarely critique and confront the Lost Cause.”

According to the proposal, other cities have made agreements with LAXART to lend their Confederate statues for the exhibit. The museum is also seeking to commission works from prominent Black artists, including Kara Walker and William Pope.L. The exhibition would be accompanied by educational materials for the general public, as well as students.

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia submitted a proposal for ownership of the Jackson statue only. The former site of the Weston State Hospital psychiatric facility is a tourist attraction that primarily hosts ghost tours and paranormal overnight visits as well as historical tours and a haunted house.

“Part of our education efforts have been and will remain to clarify and unpack the turbulent history of this area of West Virginia,” the proposal says. “Considering Jackson was a native to the area and spent time in Weston, WV, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, through both the heritage tours as well as the Clio self-guided tour, will introduce a deeper history of Jackson including the disdain that he ultimately held to the area … “Stonewall Jackson grew up here, who better than us to take the responsibility to teach about racism than the community that raised him.”

The attraction is offering $1,000 for the statue.

“There is ample area for interpretive signage to give backstory, context, and historical narratives. We will utilize our existing Clioest self-guided tour updated with an audio guide to support the recontextualization plan,” the proposal says.

Frederick Gierisch, a resident of Utopia, Texas, is offering $20,000 for both statues, but says in his proposal that he disagrees with the city’s requirement to contextualize the statues.

“I believe our histories good and bad should be preserved,” Gierisch said in his handwritten proposal.

He warns the city against transferring ownership to a museum or organization, saying this could attract “the spotlight” and protestors.

“I am giving you a better, quieter alternative. OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND!” he wrote.

Gierisch’s proposal is to display the statues at his personal ranch.

City Council has until January 13, 2022 to consider the responses to the solicitation for offers based on the stipulations of the request. No such vote has been scheduled yet.


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