Saturday, February 26, 2011

Civic Virtue Drowning In Politics

Triumph of Civic Virtue, Photo by Michael Perlman, Rego-Forest Preservation Council, March 30, 2009
Art is open to interpretation, which is unique art within itself, and with that, some controversy may ensue. Sometimes the artist's vision is misinterpreted. Without public input, a piece of history may be no more, if some electeds have their way.

In an attempt to raise funds, Congressman Anthony Weiner and NYC Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras are asking the city to sell the historic Triumph of Civic Virtue statue from Queens to Craigslist. They claim it's sexist, without being aware of its true meaning. If a statue would be considered sexist or greatly profane a century ago, it would have stirred public outcry.

If it is demolished, or sold to end up in the highest bidder's backyard, then a public monument will be deprived from the countless passersby and the general public, who comprehends its true meaning, appreciates its long-term existence, and craftsmanship.

Civic Virtue was designed in 1920 by renowned sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies, and sculpted by the Piccirilli Brothers, who were all prolific in their trade. It was initially installed in City Hall Park in Manhattan in 1922. To coincide with the development of Queens Borough Hall, it was transported to the north side of Queens Blvd & Union Turnpike in 1941, when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia took office. The Mayor didn't want to view its backside from City Hall's windows.

Photo by Michael Perlman, March 30, 2009
This statue is surrounded by a fountain which hasn't been restored for decades. Over a period of time, funding should be raised to accomplish a full restoration of this weathered public work. In the name of public art, benefactors need to step up, since the Parks Dept has not maintained it.

Triumph of Civic Virtue depicts a muscular nude Hercules with a sword in his right hand behind his neck, and standing over two mermaid-like Sirens (female figures with bird feathers & scaly feet) in Greek mythology, on top of a four-sided fountain. Its base reads, "This fountain was erected by the city of New York with funds bequeathed by Mrs. Angelina Crane." Civic virtues are defined as: 1. Personal habits and attitudes, which are conducive to social harmony and the common good; 2. The cultivation of habits of personal living, which are claimed to be important for the success of the community.

Would we eradicate a statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just because some people may interpret it as "sexist?" Let's start looking for reasons to sell off all of our city's public monuments, as a mere attempt to improve the city's budget, and begin resorting to eBay.

So why would it take 70 years for elected officials to complain, and advocate for its removal from the Queens landscape?

What should be designated a city Landmark, sometimes is not. For an array of photos documenting its superb craftsmanship, visit:

For more information:
Statue Fuels Controversy In Queens,, Feb 25, 2011

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