State rep. to return statue to Chicago university

January 28, 2010 4:33:09 PM PST
One of Chicago's most famous statues has been sitting in the office of state Representive Monique Davis. But it belongs to Chicago State University.On Thurday, Representative Davis promised to give it back. She spoke publicly for the first time about the controversy explaining how the $25,000 statue ended up in her possession.

The piece of art was purchased with taxpayer dollars. Instead of being seen by the public, it has spent most of the last five years crated up. It wound up in a gloomy warehouse at Chicago State University and of late has become the object of a bloody-nose tug-of-war between the university and South Side state Representative Monique Davis who's had the statue in her office for several months.

The statue, entitled 'Defiance,' is meant to show the torture and indignities of slavery. It was purchased for $25,000 in taxpayer money in 2004 and was destined for display in the offices of the Student financial outreach center at Chicago State University.

"This is not a piece of art, but a tool I'd planned to inspire people," said Arnold Jordan, Student Outreach Center Former Director.

Arnold Jordan was the director of the Student financial outreach center and purchased the statue at a time when state grant programs were permitted to spend two percent of their budgets on art.

In 2008, the center and program were scrapped by then Governor Blagojevich.

Defiance was kept at CSU, but in August, Jordan says he discovered it sitting in a warehouse along with other property and a lot of debris. So he took it -with he says CSU's permission - to the office of State Representative Monique Davis.

"It was not to decorate the office of Monique Davis. I was protecting it from being discarded and disrespected," said State Rep. Monique Davis, (D) Chicago.

The university says it's been trying since October to get Davis to return the statue and she's refused. Davis says she wanted legal opinion first fearing that returning the statue might ultimately jeopardize it. But now, having received her legal opinion, Davis says she'll have the 400 pound statue returned to CSU Friday.

ABC7 asked why she didn't publicly challenge CSU months ago to insure a prominent setting for Defiance.

"In hindsight, perhaps I should have done that but there's so much going on," said Davis.

Davis says she did make calls about custody of the statue to the Board of Higher Education, and other state agencies, but got no response from them.

It is unclear where the statue will be displayed after it's returned to Chicago state - if the intention is in fact to display it. CSU has been beset in the recent past by budget irregularities and a controversial change in leadership.

After Davis announced her intention to return the statue Friday, ABC7 called CSU with questions, but received no return call yet.