Crit­ics of SLO’s Teddy Roo­sevelt mon­u­ment: We’ve heard you, and we’ve made changes

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY THEODORE ROO­SEVELT MON­U­MENT COM­MIT­TEE

We are a com­mit­tee work­ing un­der the aus­pices of ARTS Obispo to bring to San Luis Obispo the Theodore Roo­sevelt Con­ser­va­tion Le­gacy Grove, a pri­vately fi­nanced pub­lic art project.

It is pro­posed to be sited within a grove of red­wood trees in Mitchell Park. It will have as the cen­tral fo­cus a con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture of a seated Theodore Roo­sevelt, sur­rounded by sev­eral lo­cally sourced boul­ders and gran­ite paving stones

Our com­mit­tee would like to ex­press our grat­i­tude to The Tri­bune and to Mayor Heidi Har­mon for chal­leng­ing us to im­prove our project and en­gage­ment with the gen­eral pub­lic. Since we an­nounced this pro­posal in 2016, we’ve re­ceived far more sup­port than crit­i­cism, but we wel­come both. We’ve worked dili­gently to so­licit in­put from the pub­lic, to shape the project to re­flect the val­ues of our com­mu­nity, and to honor not just Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt, but the con­ser­va­tion move­ment that he planted so deeply within the soul of our com­mu­nity etched with Roo­sevelt quotes on con­ser­va­tion.

To re­spond to our crit­ics, we’re mod­i­fy­ing the project by in­cor­po­rat­ing these fea­tures:

We pro­pose this name for the project: Theodore Roo­sevelt Con­ser­va­tion Le­gacy Grove.

An in­ter­pre­tive sign for the project will in­clude a frank de­scrip­tion of Roo­sevelt’s over­all record on racial mat­ters, in­clud­ing the evo­lu­tion of his views on Na­tive Amer­i­cans and other mi­nori­ties. We in­vite our Na­tive Amer­i­can neigh­bors to help us write this nar­ra­tive.

The etched gran­ite paving stones with TR con­ser­va­tion quotes will be ded­i­cated to lo­cal con­ser­va­tion lead­ers, spon­sored by in­di­vid­ual, fam­ily, or busi­ness spon­sors to honor the le­gacy of lo­cal con­ser­va­tion lead­ers. Po­ten­tial hon­orees could in­clude, for ex­am­ple, Louis Sin­sheimer, the long­est-serv­ing mayor of San Luis Obispo (19191939); Harold Miossi; Kath­leen Jones; and Bill Den­neen. Many oth­ers, liv­ing and de­ceased, de­serve recog­ni­tion for their lead­er­ship in pre­serv­ing our San Luis Obispo way of life. Lo­cal Na­tive Amer­i­can lead­ers could and SHOULD be rec­og­nized as part of this le­gacy.

PUB­LIC PAR­TIC­I­PA­TION IN THE PROJECT

The vi­sion for this pub- lic art is to pro­vide “a place for con­ver­sa­tion, to dis­cuss di­verse or op­pos­ing viewpoints; work­ing to­gether to solve com­mon prob­lems.” The plan also en­vi­sions sev­eral vir­tual-re­al­ity fea­tures that will link on­line to dig­i­tal archives re­lated to the his­tory of the Cen­tral Coast con­ser­va­tion move­ment to any­one with a smart phone.

The artist we have cho­sen to cre­ate this sculp­ture is Paula Zima, a highly re­garded artist with an abid­ing in­ter­est in TR, whose best-known lo­cal work is the “Tuquski’ wa Suwa” (Bear and Child) statue in Mis­sion Plaza.

To date, we’ve pre­sented this pro­posal to many lo­cal groups in­clud­ing the Cham­ber of Com­merce; ser­vice clubs like Ki­wa­nis, Lions, Ro­tary and Ex­change; neigh­bor­hood and civic groups; and even in Santa Bar­bara and Los An­ge­les. We hosted two work­shops at the Se­nior Cen­ter to re­view our pro­posal with neigh­bors at Mitchell Park. We are will­ing to present to any in­ter­ested group, small or large, here or any­where.

We’ve re­ceived let­ters of sup­port from the Santa Lu­cia Chapter of Sierra Club, ECOSLO, His­tory Cen­ter, Theodore Roo­sevelt As­so­ci­a­tion and SLO Rail­road Mu­seum. The project has al­ready gen­er­ated over $56,000 in pri­vate con­tri­bu­tions from over 35 donors; the me­dian con­tri­bu­tion is $125. We need to raise about an­other $100,000 to meet our bud­get and are ac­tively en­gaged in this process.

OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES FOR IN­PUT

One of the ob­jec­tives of pub­lic art is to fos­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion and de­bate among those whom it serves. There will be many op­por­tu­ni­ties for mem­bers of the pub­lic to help shape it to meet the shared vi­sion and val­ues of this com­mu­nity. We were to have our first pub­lic hear­ing on the project be­fore the Parks and Re­cre­ation Com­mis­sion, but we’ve just been in­formed by the city that any such hear­ing will be de­layed at least six months, which would be al­most a year since our ap­pli­ca­tion was filed. The project is also re­quired to be ap­proved by an ap­pointed six-mem­ber jury ap­pointed by the pub­lic art man­ager, and by the Architecture Re­view Com­mis­sion be­fore it can pro­ceed to the City Coun­cil.

We ap­pre­ci­ate the at­ten­tion this project has at­tracted in re­cent weeks. We wel­come all who wish to en­gage with us as we move this project for­ward. To learn more, please visit our web site at https://trslo.com.

Sub­mit­ted by Theodore Roo­sevelt Con­ser­va­tion Le­gacy Grove Com­mit­tee mem­bers John B. Ash­baugh, Paula Zima, Pierre Rade­maker, Daniel and Liz Krieger and Ben­jamin Peter­son.

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