A statue of Jefferson Davis will be relocated from the University of Texas-Austin campus to an American history center.
University president Gregory Fenves announced the move Thursday, stating, “As a public university, it is vital that we preserve and understand our history and help our students and the public learn from it in meaningful ways. Jefferson Davis had few ties to Texas but played a unique role in the history of the American South that is best explained and understood through an educational exhibit.”
A petition to the University, which garnered nearly 4,000 signatures, specifically suggested this move from UT Austin’s main mall to a space that would give the statue some historical context. It will now sit at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, where it will become part of a new educational exhibit.
I would guess that for most people, the term “public art” conjures bright, contemporary sculpture and outdoor murals. But public art has been around for ages, often in the form of these statues. And by definition, public art should benefit the public.
For black viewers, however, this pedestaled image of the Confederate President sent a hostile message, as evidenced by the petition, a Black Lives Matter tag that appeared in June, and common sense. By relocating Jefferson Davis, the University of Texas asserts that this statue serves more value as artifact than art piece, a reminder rather than a memorial.