Visions of Cheapside- An Updated Update!

In our recent piece on UnderMain about the history of slave auctions at Cheapside  and the statues of heroes of the Confederacy that stand there today, we called for public art to reveal the true nature of that space made sacred by suffering. At a wonderful public forum in July at the Carnegie Center, the Mayor announced that he has asked the Arts Review Board to make recommendations.

We believe that this important conversation should be inclusive, so that a project to re-imagine Cheapside is a true community effort. The conversation is made more urgent now with the apparent deliberate breaking of the sign at Cheapside relating the history of slave auctions at the site.

In a related piece of news, the state Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted 7-2 to keep the statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the secessionist Confederate States of America and devoted defender of slavery, in the Capitol rotunda alongside Kentucky greats, like Abraham Lincoln. Davis was born in Fairview, Kentucky, but spent much of his life in Mississippi. The statue was erected under the auspices of the Kentucky Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was unveiled in 1936, part of a decades-long revanchist effort begun after the Civil War to romanticize, glorify, and commemorate the Lost Cause and its heroes. That cause, primarily and centrally to preserve the right to continue the enslavement of African-Americans, continued throughout the South under a different guise for another 100 years after the Civil War through an architecture of subjugation including Jim Crow laws, enforced segregation and discrimination, deprivation of basic constitutional rights, intimidation, violence, and murder.

In Lexington, the first meeting of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Arts Review Board with the Cheapside issue on the agenda was on Wednesday, August 12. Mayor Jim Gray appeared before the Board and presented his charge for the Board to make studied recommendations concerning the status of the statues and historic marker in Cheapside. The Mayor made a point several times during his brief statement to highlight the importance of “shared values” and sensitivity to Lexington’s history, diversity, and inclusiveness in the Board’s considerations.

The next meeting concerning Cheapside of the Arts Review Board will be on September 16, at 3:00pm. At that meeting invited consultants with expertise in history, art, public art and other related fields will present information to the Board for its consideration. The meeting is in the LFUCG Council Chambers and is open to the public. Attendance by interested members of the community at this next meeting and the public comment meeting on September 21, at 6:00pm, is encouraged and urged.

We would most definitely like to hear your ideas for efforts to address the history of Cheapside. Continued involvement of the community in this effort is most important. We will compile your suggestions and send them on to the Arts Review Board, whose Chairperson, Georgia Henkel, has expressed interest in suggestions coming through the UnderMain channel. We also will highlight in a future post on UnderMain some of the ideas that we think would be “revelations”, as we called for in our piece on Cheapside. Let’s keep the conversation moving forward!

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