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City council to discuss next steps for potential reinstallation of Christopher Columbus statue

The Christopher Columbus statue that once sat on the Broad Street side of Columbus City Hall was removed in the summer of 2020.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Council is considering an ordinance that could lead to the re-installation of the Christopher Columbus statue, that once stood outside City Hall, in another public location

The ordinance, which will be considered at Monday's council meeting, would allow the city's Department of Development to enter into an up to $253,000 contract with a planning firm, Designing Local Ltd, to help facilitate public discussion about the potential re-installation. 

The ordinance also proposed that the statue be used for educational purposes. 

The city's Deputy Director of the Department of Development Jennifer Fening told 10TV that the statue will not return to City Hall. 

The Christopher Columbus statue that once sat on the Broad Street side of Columbus City Hall was removed in the summer of 2020 after Mayor Andrew Ginther called for it to come down, claiming the statue did not represent the diverse values of the city. The statue was a gift from the people of Genoa, Italy in 1955.

Landa Masdea Brunetto called the decision to remove the statue heart-wrenching, saying it hurts her because "of what it means to the Italians."

“They don’t care about the Italians?” Brunetto asked. “It’s Christopher. It’s Christopher. It’s what he did as a 15th century explorer. It’s not ‘What about the Italians?” 

Brunetto says she understands the arguments against the statue. For her, though, it represents a point of pride; what Italians went through being berated and crucified and she calls the statue a present to Italian communities.

At the time of the statue's removal, Ginther asked the Columbus Art Commission to launch a community-driven process to embrace diversity.

The process was to determine how to best replace the statue and evaluate the diversity and inclusiveness of all public art, including other monuments, statues, and art installation. The commission said there will be public input as to what replace the statue and which artist will be selected.

The city put the statue in safekeeping at a secure city facility with the guidance of the Columbus Art Commission, McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory, and Smoot Construction.

The commission was also asked to reimagine other symbols associated with the City, including the seal of the flag, and to make recommendations for change.

Fening said the city is planning to work with a consultant on educational materials that would be at the potential new site.

"The new contextual materials would be informed by robust community engagement and be subject to Committee and Art Commission approval," Fening wrote in an email to 10TV.

Brunetto says her father and grandfather created the exact bolts that would hold the statue in place. For the last two years she’s been on the Christopher Columbus Statue Committee, where she says voices from Italians and Native Americans have been heard helping to push the conversation forward. 

“What can be done?” Brunetto said. “And, so, little by little, that’s exactly what’s happening. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Now, after two years, the statue could be coming back.

“Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, the fact that these steps are taken…the fact that I know we will change someone’s mind out there,” she said.

Fening hopes that community discussion can start sometime in the fall and into the winter.

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