The Homer Public Arts Committee has recommended not accepting a bronze bust of Brother Asaiah Bates. The plan was to place it in WKFL Park in downtown Homer, but the proposal has been a source of controversy since it was brought up in January.
The arts committee held a final public hearing for the proposal after it was kicked to them from the city council in January. During the council’s Jan. 27 meeting, many people who knew Bates delivered passionate testimony about what they thought he may or may not have wanted. The majority of the comments during the arts committee hearing were against placing the bronze statue in the park.
Michael Kennedy was a friend of Bates’. He called him a “complicated man” and said he had no doubt he posed for a statue at some point. Homer artist Leo Vait had been commissioned by private citizens to create the bust and had shown a photograph of Bates as evidence he knew the statue was going to be made.
“He would do anything just to get along with people. And he changed. Whatever he thought, he was subject to change. He told me that before,” he said.
Kennedy was one of the few who was entrusted with burying Brother Asaiah. He said the sentiment was to not look back. Kennedy also pointed to an opinion piece Brad Hughes recently wrote for the Homer News.
In it Hughes said, regarding the idea of not looking back, that it “had less to do with humility than a belief in the transitory experience of the individual life, and the universal presence of the divine in all, not just a special few.” That line was especially meaningful to Homer resident Arlene Rhonda.
“And that, to me… is why he was so respected by so many people in this community. Because he did live that, and he stood for being kind to one another,” she said.
Ken Lanfield said he’s glad the community is having a discussion about this issue before it’s done. He said if anyone deserved a statute in Homer, Brother Asaiah would be, as he put it, “on the short list.” But Lanfield said a statue of Bates shouldn’t go on the rock in WKFL Park.
“I think he didn’t want his name associated with the park, and so I don’t see how you can his statue on the rock in the park without putting his name on it. And my concern is with what I think Brother Asaiah would have wanted. And I don’t think he would have wanted a statue of him in the first place,” Lanfield said.
He said a better place for a statue would be the library or even the garden by the hospital. Lanfield also mentioned possibly putting it at the old “Barefooters” property at the head of Kachemak Bay.
“It would be awesome to run across a statue of anybody out there.”
When it came time for the committee to recommend what to do, only three voting members were in attendance. Member Adele Persons preferred to at least accept the statue, but find a place for it other than the park. She pointed out it’s not often the city receives art donations like this one.
But the other two members, Trina Fellows and Michelle Miller preferred to not accept it at all. The recommendation now goes to the city council and members will decide whether or not to go against the public art committee’s decision. The issue could be discussed during the council’s next meeting.