Public Weighs in on Historic Sculptures

Members of the public line up for their turn to express to Council their opinions about some 18 new historic sculptures proposed for downtown Los Alamos. Members of the Arts in Public Places Board as well as Chair Ron Wilkins of the Los Alamos Historical Society also spoke before Council. Wilkins told Council that his board voted at its October meeting to support the APPB in its desire to place the sculptures around town. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

This citizen asked the Council not to fund any more sculptures and to put the money to other uses. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Acting Council Chair David Izraelevitz asks for public comment during this evening’s Council work session at the White Rock Fire Station. The large room is filled with citizens, several of whom line up to express their opinion on the proposed sculptures. He advised the public that tonight is a work session and no action will be taken. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Background on historic sculptures:

June 9, 2009 – County Council approved the creation of a “Historical Sculptures Master Plan Committee.” This committee was asked to develop a plan to include recommendations for historic sculptures to commemorate the history of Los Alamos. This committee was comprised of representatives from the historical society, historical museum, science museum, Chamber of Commerce, and two related County advisory boards – the Fuller Lodge Historic Districts Advisory Board (FLHDAB) and the Art in Public Places Board (APPB.)

The committee met frequently and worked for approximately 8 months on this task. On February 16, 2010, they presented their report to the County Council. This report, titled the “Historical Sculptures Master Plan” (HSMP) identified five eras of Los Alamos History, was divided into two five-year phases, and recommended approximately seventeen bronze life-sized sculptures.

The County Council accepted the HSMP report with the following motion: “I move that the County Council accept the Master Plan developed by the Historic Sculptures Master Plan Committee and ask that the Art in Public Places Board use this Master Plan as a guide in selecting future life-size historic sculptures. And further moved that in light of the Master Plan that has been developed, that the location for the Oppenheimer and Groves sculptures to be approved, that location being along the south wing of Fuller Lodge known as Site 6.” The HSMP Committee was then thanked and disbanded.

The first two historic sculptures of Robert Oppenheimer and Leslie Groves, were installed and dedicated May 19, 2011.  

Following that, the APPB and FLHDAB realized that further implementation of the HSMP would require more detailed planning and guidance than is contained in the original document – plus various proposals have been received to alter the order and identities of some sculptures. Since the original HSMP Committee had been disbanded, the Fuller FLHDAB and the APPB asked Council on September 11, 2012 to allow the two boards to create a joint-subcommittee tasked with figuring out a way to re-start the acquisition and installation of historic sculptures.

This joint subcommittee reviewed the HSMP and made a recommendation that the next two historic sculptures (life-sized and bronze) should be of Norris and Lois Bradbury located on the west plaza of the new Municipal Building. The FLHDAB and the APPB accepted this recommendation. The APPB distributed a “Call for Art” with a deadline of February 8, 2013.   

The APPB reviewed the proposals and narrowed them down to the top three. In an effort to gather public input to identify the top proposal, information and pictures from the three semi-finalists were put on the County’s “Open Forum” in March 2013.  Some participants on the Open Forum simply voted for their favorite proposal as was requested, but many participants used this venue to weigh in with their opinion on the plan to produce and install approximately seventeen more historic sculptures in the Los Alamos downtown area. At least 37 comments out of 56 were logged in opposition to the HSMP.

The APPB also received many e-mails on this topic, many of those also in opposition to the HSMP. A majority of the e-mails asked the APPB to refrain from spending money earmarked for public art on life-sized, realistic bronze statues which the senders did not consider art. There are a wide variety of opinions on this subject, ranging from strong support of the historic sculptures to adamant opposition.

A crowd turned out to hear the discussion on the historic sculpture issue. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Deputy County Administrator Brian Bosshardt opens the talk about the sculptures this evening as County Attorney Becky Ehler looks on. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Mark Rayburn, chair of the Fuller Lodge Historic District Advisory Board and Arts in Public Places Board Joint Subcommittee for Historic Sculptures briefs Council on the “History Behind the History” of the sculptures. He told the Council that a once in a lifetime opportunity has presented itself because of some $800,000 in the art account and suggested the money be used to commission the historic sculptures. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Photo by Carol A. Clark/

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