Thank goodness -- no, thank Irene Sherr -- the dilapidated sculpture on the 55th Street median just west of Harper Avenue is finally going to be removed.
How did this happen? I'm glad you asked.
1) Irene Sherr's interest was piqued because the bloggers at Hyde Park Progress were foaming at the mouth about this sculpture, and about the fact that, since it straddles the line of the 4th and the 5th ward, neither alderman seemed willing or able to tear it down.
2) Because she's a woman of action, Irene contacted a lawyer specializing in art and artists, and dug around for documentation on the sculptures.
3) Here's what she found:
a) The City of Chicago received funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1986 for "Community Development Block Grant activities."
b) The Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce requested money for public art, and specifically for two sculptures -- the one that's coming down, and another created by Matt Freedman, that sits in Harper Court:
c) As part of the 1986 grant agreement, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce was to keep at minimum $2,300 in escrow for the maintenance of the sculptures, or for their removal if the City requested it for any reason in the future.
4) Irene spoke with Jim Poueymirou at the Chamber of Commerce and with Robert Mason, at the Southeast Chicago Commission (SECC). Everyone agreed that something needed to be done, although another source told me that the Chamber initially thought maybe the sculpture should be saved and moved to an inside location (oy vay).
5) The SECC wrote a letter to the 4th and 5th ward aldermen, who both asked the Department of Transportation to check the condition of the sculpture.
6) The DOT wrote a letter to the Chamber saying "Due to the deteriorated state of the statue, the City requests that the Chamber either repair the statue or remove it from the property and restore the site." In that letter, the DOT estimated that the cost of removing the sculpture and restoring the median (which DOT will do) will come to $18,600.
7) Out of politeness (not a legal requirement), someone notified Mr. Bahauddeen that Orisha Wall was slated to be removed. He was disappointed. Apparently he has decided the decay is part of the artistic statement.
8) The Chamber of Commerce checked its coffers, and discovered -- oops -- there's only $1,200 in the escrow account.
9) Alderman Preckwinkle and Hairston offered to pay $9,000 each from their 2008 menu money.
10) The DOT says that removal and restoration of the median should occur this spring, this fall, or at the latest, next spring.
Post Script: in taking the second photo, I noticed that Matt Freedman's bronze sculpture, which is doing far better than Orisha Wall, is nonetheless in need of maintenance, or it too will begin to fall apart.
Um, Irene,...are you up for Round Two?