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Pittsburgh Art Commission recommends removing Stephen Foster statue

| Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, 5:12 p.m.
The statue of Stephen Foster in Pittsburgh's Oakland section.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The statue of Stephen Foster in Pittsburgh's Oakland section.

Pittsburgh's Art Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend removing a statue of composer Stephen Foster that depicts him standing above a black slave strumming a banjo at the entrance to Schenley Park in the city's Oakland neighborhood.

Critics have said the statue of Foster, who was born in Lawrenceville, is demeaning and should be removed. Others view it as Foster gaining inspiration from a black musician.

The commission's decision is only a recommendation.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto makes the final determination about what to do with the statue. He has said the statue should be displayed somewhere other than the public entrance to a major park. He has said he does not want to see the 117-year-old bronze sculpture by artist Giuseppe Moretti be destroyed.

“Mayor Peduto thanks the members of the Art Commission for all their hard work on this matter and looks forward to reviewing their findings,” mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said in a statement.

The commission did not recommend where the statue should go or whether it should be displayed at a private venue.

Nationwide, cities have been grappling with whether to remove Confederate monuments — and other statues viewed as glorifying racial oppression — in the months since a white nationalist rally Aug. 12 around a statute of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., erupted into deadly violence.

The Pittsburgh Mayor's Office has said the Foster statue was being reviewed before the violence in Charlottesville.

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