Arts and Culture

A resolution urging the Louisville mayor to repair and return a statue of King Louis XVI to the corner of W. Jefferson and 6th streets outside Metro Hall has been sent to the Metro Council. 

The council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee passed the resolution out of committee 6-4 Tuesday night after approving amendments. 

Council member Kevin Kramer (R-11), the primary sponsor, asked to change language on how the restoration of the damaged statue, now in storage, would be funded. 

The original resolution language suggested that federal CARES funds could be a possible source for covering repair costs. It requested Mayor Greg Fischer to “pursue federal funds including but not limited to CARES funds or other third-party funds for these repairs.” 

“This statue wasn’t damaged because of COVID and CARES money is exclusively for that purpose,” Kramer said during the meeting Tuesday.

As amended, the measure now asks the mayor “to pursue philanthropic, federal and[/or] other third-party funds for these repairs.” 

“The goal would be first to seek philanthropic, federal and other third-party funds hopefully enough to cover the entire cost of repairs. And then, if it’s not enough to cover… whatever the balance of that is, before the mayor actually expended [any Metro] funds, he come to the council and let us know what that expense would be.” 

Kramer acknowledged that the council has a lot on its plate, but said this resolution sends an important message. 

“I crafted this resolution basically just to say our hope/intent would be that the goal moving forward, the plan moving forward, would be that we would repair damage that was done, and take care of our public assets,” he said. 

Protesters broke off one of the statue’s hands during racial justice demonstrations this summer and the entire statue was spray painted. It was removed and placed in storage.

Those opposed questioned whether restoring and returning the statue should be a priority. 

“I’m very concerned about this… uncomfortable with where we are with this particular item at this time, given the plethora of things that we’re trying to do in our community,” Council member Barbara Sexton Smith (D-4). 

Council member Bill Hollander (D-9) felt they were getting ahead of themselves in discussing this before they had any repair estimates.

“If we don’t get federal funds or state funds and philanthropic funds, and it costs $10 million, I’m probably not for that,” Hollander, who was a no vote, said. “Now, I wasn’t for the vandalism, either, but it doesn’t mean that I would spend an unlimited amount of money to restore this.”

Council member Brent Ackerson (D-26), who is a co-sponsor on the resolution and chair of the committee, reminded committee members that this is a resolution and not an ordinance they’re discussing.

“So at the end of the day it’s not gonna have any legally binding effect,” he said.

Members of Metro Louisville’s Commission on Public Art have expressed concern about making any decisions on the fate of the King Louis statue before they know how much it will cost and whether the severe damage can be repaired at all. 

City crews removed the statue in September. At the time, Metro officials cited public safety for its removal. The Metro’s public art administrator, Sarah Lindgren, has said conservation reports show extensive damage, with an initial assessment recommending it not be reinstalled outdoors due to the porous nature of the nine-ton marble statue. 

This prompted the commission to send a statement to the committee last month.

“We are actively investigating options for the statute’s conservation and restoration,” the statement sent by COPA chair Chris Reitz read. “To date we have not received an estimate, nor identified a conservator that will provide an estimate, due to the poor condition of the statue. One conservator believed the damage may be beyond ​reasonable repair.” 

Commission members asked council members to hold off on a vote until they have all the information on repairs and costs. They also requested that council utilize the 2018 guidelines developed by the mayor-appointed Public Art and Monuments Advisory Committee before reinstating the statue, stressing that the “repeated vandalism to the statue” indicates that public opinion might not be unified on this issue.

According to the Louisville Metro Government Meeting and Agenda Portal, the resolution is on the agenda for the council’s Dec. 10 meeting.

This story has been updated. 

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.