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Arts board backs removal of Hiawatha statue



Two La Crosse city committees have now voted to have the Hiawatha statue in Riverside Park taken down. 

The original vote last week by the park board reportedly was the binding decision which will lead to removal of the 60-year-old concrete Indian. 

On Friday, the La Crosse arts board voted to support that decision. 

Board chair Jennifer Williams read a resolution declaring that the 25-foot statue represents racism and ‘colonialism,’ and has had ‘harmful effects’ on the community.    

For the last two or three years, the arts board has considered ideas for repairing and preserving Hiawatha, while still leaving open the option of having the statue removed from public view.                

The resolution also says removing Hiawatha is not meant as a sign of disrespect to the artist, long-time Central High School art teacher Anthony Zimmerhakl, who was commissioned to make the statue in the early 1960’s as a tourist attraction. 

The timing of removing the statue from Riverside Park hasn’t been worked out yet, and park director Jay Odegaard says a contract for removal could be considered by the park board next month.

The arts board is working on a process of replacing Hiawatha with a different piece of art, and a previous story by WIZM News used the word ‘contest’ to describe that procedure.

The board says this should not be considered a ‘contest,’ although the proposed procedure might include applications by artists, review by a jury, and selection of finalists before a specific project is authorized.



A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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