Christopher Columbus Statue
The Christopher Columbus statue was acquired by The Friends of the Christopher Columbus Committee. It was installed in the park on October 21, 1979. The park was also renamed from Waterfront Park to Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park on that day. It received support from several Italian-American interest groups.
About the Artwork
The statue was purchased from Benedetti Bonnati, a marble supplier in Italy. It was carved by a group of sculptors in Carrara, Italy. The statue sat atop a granite pedestal that honors donors and the Italian-American families in the North End at the time. The pedestal was made by Andrew J. Mazzola Monumental Works in Norwood. This artwork did not go through the Boston Art Commission's standard accessioning process.
Individuals have vandalized the waterfront park monument at least five times since 2004. The most recent act of vandalism was on June 9, 2020. On that day, the statue’s head was forcibly detached and damaged. The City removed the statue on June 11 and placed it in storage.
Examining the Artwork
The Christopher Columbus statue was one of six pieces named in the City-commissioned report "An Opportunity for Change." The report called for:
- potential removal of the piece
- greater contextualization of the piece, and
- incorporating untold histories.
The Boston Art Commission has received comments of concern about the ongoing vandalism and a desire to see it returned from storage. There are also concerns that this statue glorifies racism and justifies the ongoing abuse of Indigenous peoples.
The commission recently carried out an extensive assessment of "Emancipation Group". During that process, the commission recognized the value of taking time to conduct a thorough review of pieces in the City’s collection. The commission votes on individual artworks. But, this process is part of a larger effort to look at the inequities that exist in the entire collection.
At its August 2020 meeting, the Boston Art Commission:
- heard public testimony regarding the possible review and study of the Christopher Columbus statue, and
- voted to start a process to study its future.
The vote called for engaging the public in a robust way, with an appropriate review process.
The commission received two conservation reports for the Christopher Columbus statue. According to both reports, conservators could attempt to restore the head and neck area of the statue to its original appearance. But, the repairs would be visible. The structural integrity of the artwork cannot change to prevent future damage.
During the August meeting, the commission heard testimony from 13 people. The testimonies included requests for more time for individuals to give testimony. The commission has received more than 100 pieces of written testimony on the statue. The commission took more testimony at its October meeting. It also announced a special meeting on Indigenous public art and cultural spaces in Boston. The date for that meeting has not yet been announced.
Recently, the Knights of Columbus sent a letter to the City offering to incorporate the statue into their new development. The City reached an agreement to have the statue live permanently in their development at 41 Margin Street after the City repairs it. The City will be moving forward with a new Italian American Immigrant statue for the park. This process will be guided by the North End community.