Carmel committee to consider proposal to purchase 2 statues after resident asks for more input from Black community


A proposal before the Carmel City Council to set aside $180,000 to purchase two new sculptures in Carmel to represent people of color will go to a city council committee for further discussion.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has proposed purchasing a $70,000 statue by J. Seward Johnson called “Waiting to Cross” featuring a young Black girl swinging around a stop sign and working with the local Indian community to develop a statue featuring an Indian woman in traditional dress.

CIC COM 0922 Statues of Color
Waiting to Cross by Seward Johnson ©1986 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc.

During the public comment portion of the Sept. 21 meeting, Ti’Gre McNear, a Carmel resident who is city reform chair with Carmel Against Racial Injustice, asked that the Black community have the same opportunity to give input on the statue that the Indian community will have for the other statue.

McNear, who is Black, said the Seward Johnson statue, first cast in 1986, is a “very outdated representation” of the Black community. Seward Johnson, a sculptor who died earlier this year, was white.

“There are many talented artists who are African American who can produce art that is reflective of how we view ourselves,” McNear said.

City councilor Miles Nelson requested the matter be sent to committee to allow the council time to gather more feedback from the community.

“My concern, if we approved the money, is that maybe then we wouldn’t have control of ultimately what statue is selected,” he said. “I think by not approving it tonight, we can at least have a conversation with those who would be making the decision (on the art selection).”

Councilor Adam Aasen said he supports the idea of gathering more public input on the city’s artwork, but he does not believe it’s the job of the city council to vote on specific pieces.

“I don’t think the city council was elected to be the art selection committee,” Aasen said. “I think that would be a dangerous precedent.”

Brainard, who was not at the meeting, is primarily responsible for selecting the city’s artwork. Council President Laura Campbell said she did not support voting on the item at the Sept. 21 meeting without being able to ask Brainard questions about the selection of the statue.

Current has reached out to Brainard for comment.

The ordinance before the council proposes transfering $180,000 of excess funds in the general fund to the 2020 Mayor’s Office Budget line item Support for the Arts.

This story will be updated.