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Trib editorial: Foster statue's fate challenging choice for Peduto

| Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, 9:51 a.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 now unanimously recommends that the Stephen Foster statue be removed from the Oakland entrance to Schenley Park. But its fate is up to Mayor Bill Peduto.

He has said the 117-year-old bronze sculpture of the Lawrenceville-born composer should be displayed elsewhere but shouldn't be destroyed. And indeed, this monument presents a more nuanced question than do statues of Confederate figures. The statue offends some, particularly with its inclusion of a seated black-slave banjo player, which others see as depicting a source of musical inspiration for Mr. Foster.

Simply putting the statue in storage might quiet the controversy, but that would send a message of its own: Pittsburgh sequesters such issues rather than resolving them. Moving the statue somewhere as part of a larger display that provides historical context could make it a valuable teaching tool. But some institution, public or private, would have to be willing to take it and commit to such a plan.

If the statue is removed, what takes its current place? Will anything tell passersby what used to be there, why it's no longer there, even direct them to its new home if it gets one?

Mr. Peduto faces a challenging choice. It needs to be one that makes sense in both the moment and in the long run, too.

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