The role of art in public spaces has been questioned time and time again over the course of art history and from city to city.
Last Tuesday, San Luis Obispo’s city council heard the results of a study of cities with monuments in public spaces, which led to Mayor Heidi Harmon opposing the plan to erect a privately funded statue of Theodore Roosevelt in a city park.
Harmon expressed that humans are complex and while their achievements may be worth celebrating, they are also capable of making harmful decisions.
The conversation resulted in the city council updating San Luis Obispo’s public art policy to say that there would no longer be monuments to people, but that statues of concepts would still be allowed.
The update to the city’s public art policy comes about two years after protests around the country demanded that confederate statues be taken down because the figures represented in the monuments are problematic.
A range of responses from San Luis Obispo residents have ensued in response to the decision.
Tyler Pratt, reporter with KCBX Central Coast Public Radio, an NPR affiliate serving San Luis Obispo and other communities; he’s reported on the city’s push to update its public art policy
Bill Deverell, professor of history and director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West at the University of Southern California