County searches for downtown statue replacement

Alachua County is asking residents to submit nominations of prominent, deceased, African American citizens of Alachua County for a statue that will stand outside the County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville.

The nomination deadline is Friday at midnight, and the county asks that the submissions include a picture of the individual and a less than 100-word summary of why the individual should be honored.

The form for nominations is available online.

Gina Peebles, assistant county manager, said six citizen nominations have been submitted as of Wednesday afternoon.

When the deadline passes, the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project Committee will narrow down the list and send it to the Alachua County Historical Commission who will vet the nominees before they are sent to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for a final vote.

Peebles hopes the committees will finish their work quickly and get the nominations to the BOCC by the end of the year.

Once the BOCC makes a final decision, the Arts Council of Alachua County will send out a call for an artist.

Currently, an empty 12×12 concrete slab marks the statue’s future location. From 1904 until 2017, a statue of a Confederate soldier known as “Old Joe” stood on the site.

The Daughters of the Confederacy donated the statue originally and retook possession four years ago during a nationwide discussion about Confederate statues. The statue is now at a cemetery near Micanopy.

Peebles said the county has tried to fill the empty site a couple of times.

The first attempt was a $25,000 call to artists that netted zero proposals. The second attempt raised the fund to $40,000 and got multiple responses, but the BOCC rejected them.

After more than 70 citizen proposals, the Gainesville Megaphone project received a nod from the BOCC. But artists weren’t thrilled about the idea, and the project ended.

Now, the county will try to fill the spot again.

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