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MICHAEL BURTCH: ARTIST

SCULPTOR, MUSICIAN, WRITER, SET DESIGNER

COUNCIL ORDERS NUDES BACK UP

LOCAL ARTIST MICHAEL BURTCH (second from the right) is flanked by his wife Linda and Doug McChesney, chair of the city's Cultural Advisory Board, during Monday nights city council meeting at the Civic Centre.

By ELAINE DELLA-MATTIA

The Sault Star

It took less than a minute for city council to order restoration of Coprpus Mobilis, Sault Ste. Marie's controversial nude artwork.

With chambers almost packed, council avoided discussion, questions and comment.

Most of the spectators were present in chambers to support reinstalling the statues that were quickly removed from the front wall of the John Rhodes Community Centre just over a week ago.

Ward 5 Coun. Debbie Amaroso and Ward 6 Coun. Peter Vaudry tabled a resolution - that the structures be reinstalled as is with structural mounting improvements - without any community input or debate.

The resolution to omit debate quickly passed, but without the support of Ward 3 Coun. Pat Mick or Ward 4 Coun. Lou Turco.

Council approves nudes

Council then turned to the main resolution moved by Mick and Ward 1 Coun. James Caicco and unanimously approved the resolution of the nude sculptures in their original form.

Ward 2 Coun. Tony Flynn was absent.

Amaroso told reporters after the meeting that council chose not to debate the issue because it had passed a resolution months ago to approve the submission recommended by the Cultural Advisory Commission.

"There was no direction from council to change that. It's been before council and there is no point, in my view, in revisiting it," she said.

Amaroso said community members had ample opportunity to express their views through the media or through emails and telephone calls.

But she said unanswered questions remain on why or how the statues came down without council's approval. City staff removed the sculptures, by artist Michael Burtch after complaints were received at the community centre about the nudity.

"It's a separate issue and something that a number of us want to find out by ourselves and I'm still checking with people on the answers I need," she said.

Unanswered questions include how the situation developed, how someone circumvented the democratic process and how council's order was not followed.

"We need to find out where the communications breakdown was," she said.

Mick countered that debate around the issue "was a golden opportunity to inform the public of our policies and procedures and what is in place."

 

It wouldn't be a" hushing session," she said, but more of an information session about the issues.

But some of the senior councilors wanted the debate put to bed and they won.

Mick said all of council should address the policies and procedures that are in place and how they came into play with the removal of the statues last week.

"Every time I ask about policies and procedures I'm told that they're there but I would like to see them specifically and if they're fuzzy, let's clear them up."

Mick said that she doesn't know how the problem can be solved because the majority of council rejected debate and questions.

Caicco agreed. The resolution for debate did not intend a witch hunt and criticism of people who made decisions.

"But, we did the right thing here today and that should be noted," he said.

Mayor John Rowswell, in a later interview, agreed the community has had enough debate about the sculptures.

"We received petitions tonight for and against and we've had well over 100 calls at city hall and I'm sure council has had just as many," he said. "The numbers are still 95 percent in favour of putting them back up."

Roswell said he personally delivered the remaining money owed Burtch and also viewed the sculptures for the first time.

"They're fairly rough in texture if you're looking at them up close... they are not fully finished nudes. It's a grey area between a silhouetted and full nude," Rowswell said.

He added no one on the ground looking at the statues would notice a Speedo and/or bikini on them anyway.

When it was reveled that the sculptures were to be removed for alterations, the community reacted fast and furiously. Most demanded the sculptures' return to the wall of the Rhodes Centre in their original naked form.

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