The hot potato issue of removing a statue of former mayor Frank Bogert from city property fell into the lap of the city’s Public Arts Commission Wednesday evening, which voted to move forward with an appraisal of the statue but nothing else.
The Commission was not debating whether the removal was appropriate. That decision was made by the Palm Springs City Council when it voted in September to start the legal process for removing and relocating the monument. Still, a handful of speakers who have opposed the statue’s removal from the outset spoke during the Commission’s public comment period, again urging that the statue remain in place.
Chair Tracy Merrigan brought the issue to the attention of the Commission, asking that it approve an appraisal of the statue, which was completed by Raymundo Kobo and installed outside City Hall in 1990. In addition, Merrigan sought approval for an estimate on the cost of removal and possible storage or reinstallation of the artwork at another location.
The Commission ultimately approved only the appraisal. Five members approved the motion, one abstained, and one voted no.
Merrigan said her proposal was simply a matter of housekeeping and not an effort to insert the Public Arts Commission into the center of an issue that has caused a divide among city residents.
“I thought we could open a more positive and communitarian idea of speaking about the statue and putting it in more of its own perspective,” Merrigan said Wednesday evening. “If people are talking about a piece of art, we should have it appraised, so we know what we’re dealing with.”
Arts Commissioner Shawnda Faveau cast the lone no vote for the appraisal, questioning whether it was needed considering the artwork is insured.
“I’m not understanding why we need to get an appraisal on it if there’s already a value on it,” she said.
Arts Commissioner Cristina Demiany, who abstained from voting, also questioned the appraisal, asking why other artwork owned by the city wasn’t also being appraised.
“Why is this piece of artwork getting special treatment?” she asked during deliberation on the issue.
The statue’s removal is also being discussed by the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB), which has delayed any ruling on whether removing the statue from in front of City Hall would damage the historical value of the building and its grounds. City staff said Wednesday evening the HSPB would likely settle that matter in January.