The city on Monday restored a Magnificent Mile sculpture of a prominent, Haitian-born Chicago settler after discovering last week that a black mask had been painted across the face of the art installation.
Andrzej Dajnowski, who owns the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc, said the city reached out to his company late last week about the vandalism of the bronze bust of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. DuSable, a fur trader, was the first nonindigenous settler to the Chicago area and was labeled the “founder of Chicago” by the state of Illinois in 1968.
Dajnowski said his company, which handles graffiti removal for the city, could not clean the DuSable statue until Monday because they already had a job slated for Friday, removing graffiti from a statue of 17th-century explorer/priest the Rev. Jacques Marquette.
Dajnowski said it appeared someone had splashed black paint across the eyes of the DuSable statue. The paint had also dripped down the statue’s cheeks. He said it took turpentine, acetone, wax and several hours to clean and restore the artwork.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement condemned the act of vandalism.
“The Jean Baptiste DuSable statue commemorates our city’s founding father, and the defacement of this treasure disrespects all Chicagoans and attacks the heritage of our heroes and the common values that they stood for — values that we stand behind as a city and that we also celebrate today by honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy,” Emanuel said.
It was unclear exactly when the sculpture was defaced.
Sculptor Erik Blome, who created the bust, said his assistant notified him Sunday morning that a black mask appeared to have been painted on its face.
Chicago police said they were investigating.
Blome and officials with the DuSable Museum of African-American History said they did not know if race or the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was a factor.
“It’s awful; it’s so disturbing,” Blome said. “You take a risk when you put something in public, but you don’t (ever) want it vandalized.”
Blome said Chicago’s Haitian-American community sought him out to create the sculpture because of sculptures he had made of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
The statue was donated to the city and installed in October 2009 on the east side of Michigan Avenue, just north of the Chicago River.
The bust is mounted on a granite pedestal and stands more than 6 feet tall.
Owen Leroy, a Haitian-born Chicagoan, said he emailed news of the defacing to dozens of other Haitian-Americans on Sunday after hearing about it from Blome.
“Deep inside, I was a little bit upset,” said Leroy, who also drove to see the statue Sunday from his home in Lincoln Square. “The statue, basically for the Haitian community, represents a major sign of attachment that we have to the city of Chicago.”
Charles Bethea, curator of the DuSable Museum of African-American History, expressed sadness Monday that the artwork had been damaged. The museum often uses the sculpture’s image in its promotional materials.
“Wanton acts of vandalism of public art is never a good thing,” Bethea said in a statement. “How we as a people treat art and artists is a microcosm of how far we have come as an intelligent society.”
Source: Chicago Tribune