Christopher Columbus statue should go, votes Pittsburgh Art Commission

Emilee Geist

The Pittsburgh Art Commission voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of removing the Christopher Columbus statue from Schenley Park in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. © WTAE Christopher Columbus statue For some, it’s a symbol of Italian pride. For others, it’s a symbol of violence against Native American people and of the […]

The Pittsburgh Art Commission voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of removing the Christopher Columbus statue from Schenley Park in the city’s Oakland neighborhood.



a close up of a statue: Christopher Columbus statue


© WTAE
Christopher Columbus statue

For some, it’s a symbol of Italian pride. For others, it’s a symbol of violence against Native American people and of the suffering they experienced. Statues of Columbus have been removed in some other cities.

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“We’re all elated by this news. We’re looking forward to seeing some diligent work on the part of Mayor Peduto, hopefully that he will take the recommendation of the commission,” Miguel Sague Jr, a board member of the Council of Three Rivers Indian Center, told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. He said they’re elated, “not only because of the wonderful unanimous vote — every one of the commissioners voted in our favor — but also the amazing amount of Pittsburghers that called in, (and) sent in emails.”

Sague said he also represents the United Federation of Taino People and Caney Indigenous Spiritual Circle.

Basil Russo, national president of the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, which is based here in Pittsburgh, is on the opposite side of the issue. He says ISDA will fight in court if the mayor agrees with this vote.

“It’s clear to me that the Art Commission caved in today to demands from revisionists who want to rewrite American history to conform to their own personal agendas. The Art Commission had no legal authority today to make any decision related to the Columbus statue,” Russo told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. “What they did was an insult to the legacy of Italian Americans in Pittsburgh, and that statue serves as a symbol of the contributions that Italian Americans have made to the rich history of the city of Pittsburgh.”

The city law department says the mayor is the one to make the next decision. He had asked the five commission members to make a recommendation. If he agrees with the commission members, the law department says the commission must take another vote on final approval to remove the statue. Commission members noted they believe city law gives them the power to decide without a choice by the mayor.

People on both sides of the argument were given the opportunity to weigh in during a public hearing last week.

Since 1958, the 13 foot tall bronze Columbus statue created by Frank Vittor has stood atop a granite pedestal on Schenley Drive near Phipps Conservatory.

The statue has been the subject of ongoing controversy and instances of vandalism. It was vandalized in June and July of this year and in 2010 and 2017.

The commission had previously voted to remove a statue of Stephen Foster.

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