Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hebe: To Move or Not To Move?

Natalie Jovonovich

She is a part of history, watching over Athens for 123 years. The statue of the Greek goddess Hebe first stood in front of the Athens County Courthouse before various cracks caused it to fall into a severe state of disrepair, partially due to vandalism. After being pieced back together, her new home is still in front of the Athens Water Treatment Plant on West State Street. But in recent weeks, community members have been speaking out about possibly moving the statue to a more accessible location.

To Move
At last night's City Council meeting, Phil Goldsberry expressed his desire to have the historical statue moved. Reading letters from his uncle and cousin, both of whom were directly affiliated with the water treatment plant where the statue stands now, Goldsberry said :"Citizens of Athens should be invited to look at a piece of art that could be moved." While some people say the statue is too fragile to be moved, Goldsberry says that is NOT the case and he thinks it CAN be "fairly and readily moved." When Council asked how the move would be funded, the former service-safety director replied that several community members have already pledged to step forward and donate money.

Phil Goldsberry talks about why the statue should be moved to a more public locale.

Not To Move
Ron Chapman, former superintendent of the water treatment plant, opposed that plan. As one of the original group that restored the Hebe statue, Chapman says that Hebe is safe where she is, behind the fence. Since September 11th, public utilities like the water treatment plant have to be kept secure at all times. But because of that, people can't easily view the statue. The other issue is whether or not she can be properly moved. Chapman described how the statue was bolted to the floor and while it could be moved, "I think the statue is properly placed where it's at." He also said he had talked to Goldsberry's uncle personally in the past, and he had made it clear to him he wanted the statue to stay put.

Ron Chapman's rebuttal to moving the statue.

Marc Gagliano is a local sculptor and the owner of Estate Lions Marble and Granite Art. He said he had extensive expertise in sculpting and felt he could heat or cool the bottom of the statue to pop the bond. If necessary, he said he also has enough experience to be able to saw it off as well. What's most important is recognizing the water department for successfully preserving the statue for so long, while still moving it. "Do I think it's worthwhile? Art is made for people to enjoy." Gagliano says ultimately the art piece was given to the city, not the water department. He says it needs to be fully restored and that it will take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to properly examine it. Beverly Schumacher of the Athens County Historical Society also said it should be more accessible: "It definitely needs to be moved where the public can see it, and the museum is an option."

Does City Council Have a Vote?
Goldsberry said that City Council needed to authorize the move, but some argued that it was not their responsibility. Councilman Jim Sands said the statue is public property, meaning Council must be involved in all decisions regarding it. Council plans to bring the location up again at next Monday's meeting. Sands wants to pass this on to area experts who will hopefully have answers soon: "I don't want this to drag on until snowfall." Councilman Kent Butler disagreed with potentially placing the statue in a glass case, saying sculptures should be viewed from all around, and that would make it two-dimensional. President Bill Bias said that when he talked to water treatment plant employees in the past, they obviously had deep-seated feelings about the statue. Bias didn't offer a clear opinion, saying only: "Like all issues, the first opinion I have of it is not always necessarily where I end up on it." But for now, Hebe remains protected, although arguably not necessarily as appreciated as she could be.

Councilwoman Debbie Phillips talks about who should be evaluating this issue.

No comments: