By Hannah Heimbuch
Following community discord regarding where and whether a bronze bust of Brother Asaiah Bates should be placed to commemorate the longtime Homer resident, the Homer City Council opted to postpone the decision for further review.
“I would like to send it back to the Public Arts Committee and have them hold public meetings on this,” Councilman David Lewis said. “Then come back to us with a consensus as to what their public meetings have decided should be done with the statue and where it should be placed.”
Brother Asaiah passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 78. The ordinance facing the council last night asked them to accept the donation of a life-size bronze bust of Asaiah into the city art collection, and further to approve placement of the statue in WKFL Park — land donated by Brother Asaiah.
Several community members, though supportive of commemoration of Asaiah’s ideas and spirit, spoke with hesitation regarding a likeness of the man being placed in the park.
Friend Ken Landfield suggested other options for commemorating Asaiah’s ideas, such as an endowed lecture series or other artistic options. This type of display, while good intentioned, does not seem to fit with his friend’s ideas, he said.
“I’m not convinced that a statue of himself is something the brother would have necessarily wanted,” Landfield said.
Michael Kennedy voiced concern about the somewhat saintly status that Brother Asaiah has in the Homer community, and whether this kind of visual dedication was contradicting the city’s responsibility to maintain a separation between church and state.
The artist creating the $18,500 work — donated anonymously — is Homer’s well-known sculptor and visual artist Leo Vait. He knew Asaiah as well, and believes the brother would fully support both the artwork and its placement.
“I have a picture of Brother Asaiah posing for me in a public setting to do a public sculpture in 1996,” Vait said. “He was volunteering, knowing that this image was going to appear in public. That’s pretty much all I have to say. I think the photo speaks for itself.”
Bumpo Bremicker also supported the statue. He said that if the council was considering something ostentatious and massive, he would see a problem. But, a bust in the park that carries the words Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love in its title is a good place for Asaiah’s image to be remembered.
While all in attendance seemed to support commemorating this respected member of the community, former city councilmember, and promoter of public discourse and peaceful living, the how of the matter was contentious enough to warrant further discussion.
The issue will be discussed at the Public Arts Committee meeting on Feb. 13, and return to the Homer City Council during their second regular meeting in March.
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