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MICHAEL BURTCH: ARTIST

SCULPTOR, MUSICIAN, WRITER, SET DESIGNER

CITY FLOODED WITH CALLS FAVOURING NUDES

 

City Hall has been inundated with telephone calls, mostly from residents who want to see the three bronze nude statues reinstalled as they are at the the John Rhodes Community Centre.

Mayor John Rowswell said he's received between 80 and 100 telephone calls and e-mails, with only three or four suggesting the Corpus Mobilis figurines by artist Michael Burch should be reinstalled.

"There's now question that the mayor's office has received a lot of calls," he said Wednesday.

Rowswell said he didn't see the trio of statues after they were installed at the Rhodes Centre and he hasn't seen them since they were taken down on the orders of city staff.

On Monday, city council will deal with a resolution to reinstall the controversial statues. 

Saultites flood city phone calls 

The resolution, moved by Ward 3 Coun. Pat Mick and seconded by Ward 1 Coun. James Caicco, calls for the reinstallation of the sculptures in the present form, subject to correction of any structural deficiency.

There were concerns about the safety of the brackets attaching the artwork to the building wall, but only one of the fasteners needed some reinforcement.

The motion also requests that Burtch be paid the outstanding $5,000 of the $15,ooo price of the commissioned work.

Burtch, who is director of the Art Gallery of Algoma, sad he will be present at the council meeting and will be available.

"I think its good to clear the air," Burtch said. "I've been overwhelmed by the response of the citizens of this city."

Burtch said he believes the majority of Sault Ste. Marie residents are tolerant and open-minded and what has happened is no reflection of the city, "but of a small minority."

 

Mick said she was asked to replace another council agenda-setting meeting Tuesday and decided it was an opportunity to put forth the resolution.

Mayor says 'controversy has been 'delightful'

By ELAINE DELLA-MATTIA

The Sault Star


Mayor John Rowswell says he couldn't be more delighted with the recent surge of energy that's resulted from the controversy surrounding the nude statues at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

The issue comes at a perfect time, when Sault Ste. Marie residents have been disheartened with the continued unknowns of Algoma Steel's financial situation and the fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Rowswell said.

The reaction created by the controversy surrounding Michael Burtch's Corpus Mobilis statues has jump started the Sault and wants to use it as a tool to have the community start working together to understand local problems and work with them.

"It's created a new positive, community energy," he said.

"This is the wrong kind of attention we want to convey. It's been on CBC and in the National Post," she said.

Mick said she's still not sure who is objecting to the artwork and attempts to find names, numbers and addresses of complainants to City Hall have been unsuccessful.

"All I've been told is that it's been people with young families," she said.

Nick Apostle, commissioner of community services, said earlier that public feedback to staff had been about 90-10 in opposition to the statues.

Mick suggests the situation may have gotten out of control after one or two suggestions or moments were made about the statues.

"Sometimes things get blown out of proportion and when you get down to brass tacks, there's not dozens of phone calls, there's only one or two," she says.

Responses she's received since a story was published Saturday in the Sault Star indicating city hall was removing the statues and demanding modifications suggest that most people are pleased with the statues.

 

Caico said, "I've had representation from a wide cross-section of the community.I think I've had someone from every neighborhood in Ward 3 and it's been a good representation of the population,"

Mick said, said reinstalling the statues is "the right thing to do. I can't speak for all of council but I don't believe I was tricked or that I received something that I didn't approve."

Caicco said that the overwhelming support of the community through phone calls and e-mails makes it clear what council should do Monday.

"Staff made a judgment call to take (the statues) down I'm not going to look back and question that. On Monday, council will decide where we go from here," he said.

Both Rowswell and CAO Joe Fratesi have indicated that Burtch's finished product differed from the concept approved by city council. Fratesi said the artist took "some liberties" and Rowswell said councillors didn't realize the sculptures would be nudes.

Rowswell said the statues came down after city staff conveyed messages that the bronzed figurines were too graphic and one female form detailed pubic hair.

"I agreed because that's not what was commissioned," Rowswell said.

Meanwhile, support is mounting for the figures to be returned to the Rhodes Centre in their original form.

The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution Wednesday supporting the council motion that the Rhodes Centre statues be replaced and not modified.

Chamber president Gary Dumanski said the chamber board and its members feels the statues are suitable for the community centre and has asked Caicco to pass on that message at Monday's council meeting.

Burtch said he'd like the city to consider an arms-length funding agency for projects such as these, as it would help the city protect itself and the investment as well as those of the artists.

"It's something that I believe needs to be looked at seriously," he said.


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