Many in West Michigan have heard about a sculpture in Kalamazoo, Mich., that has become the target of politically correct wrath. The “Fountain of the Pioneers,” a work by artist Alfonso Iannelli, depicts a towering pioneer with a club in his hand standing over a Native American depicted in a kneeling position. Activists say the sculpture should be removed because it is a “monument to evil subjugation, the violent removal of the people who were first on this land.”
Those who want the sculpture to stay describe it as a memorial of the westward progression and conquest of the United States by pioneers and that while a Native American is shown in an inferior position, this is not meant to be a racist statement implying that Native Americans are inferior.
I looked around and found a source that has direct input from Iannelli — Mr. David Jameson, the president of Chicago-based ArchiTech Gallery, which owns the majority of Iannelli’s archives, including sketches, sculptures, correspondance, etc. His research regarding this sculpture indicates that for his time, Iannelli had an uncharacteristically high regard for Native Americans, and through his sculpture indicated their valiant resistance to the seizure of their land by the “white man.” Activists may claim that the sculpture is a shameful image of racism and hate. But could the “shame” they see in the “Fountain of the Pioneers” be caused by the feelings the sculpture is intended to produce?
Shortly after the sculpture was commissioned, Iannelli wrote this to a now defunct magazine called The American City describing the sculpture and his intent behind it.
“I wanted to see suggested the progression of the growth of Kalamazoo, the efforts of the pioneers, the romantic sadness of the vanquished Indians, the onward strides of the industrial accomplishments, the prolific richness of the country they were blessed with…the tower symbolizing the pioneer’s advance and the Indian’s stalwart and fateful resistance…”
Mr. Jameson, in a letter to the Kalamazoo Gazette submitted this week, encourages the city to keep the sculpture exactly as it is.
Kalamazoo is fortunate indeed to have a major public monument by a giant in American art. That it also remains one of the most genuine interpretations of his feelings is a testament to the power of abstraction in modern sculpture. Kalamazoo recognized this in 1940 and should be honored to celebrate it now.
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