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Why it’s OK that two children are missing from the Capitol - Austin, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member WalksfarTX
N 30° 16.529 W 097° 44.429
14R E 621145 N 3349983
Quick Description: I was sitting at the Texas Senate press table a few weeks back, minding my own business, often the best thing to do in a legislative chamber. But on this particular day, I was jarred from my reverie by something a Senate aide came by to tell me.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 4/15/2019 11:35:30 AM
Waymark Code: WM10CTW
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Alfouine
Views: 2

Long Description:
Statesman

"'A child is missing,' he said.

The missing child was last seen on the Capitol grounds, he said. And then he said something about maybe getting the kid’s photo on a milk carton.

Concerned, I investigated. It was worse than generic Senate aide thought. There were two missing children.

I say “were” because I’ve found them both. They’re in a state warehouse. Been there for years. As you’d expect, they’re damaged.

Here’s the deal: The plaque at the Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren monument just northwest of the Capitol says, “The monument depicts six children on a field trip to the Texas Capitol.” But there are only four. Perhaps two got lost during the field trip? It happens. Check the gift shop.

What happened to the other two kid-sized bronze kids — both boys — in the monument? Turns out, alas, each of the six is a statue of limitations. And the limits have been exceeded.

The Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren has fallen victim to Texas children.

In 1993, Texas lawmakers declared it time “we pay tribute to the citizens who will shape the future of Texas and of the world, and those future leaders are today’s children.”

The resolution calling for a privately funded “monument in tribute to children” was approved. The fundraising drive was spearheaded by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association and other groups. As the State Preservation Board notes, the monument was “erected (in) 1998 by the school children of Texas,” which, as noted above, is kind of weird because it has been gradually destroyed by the schoolchildren of Texas.

Back in the 1990s, the kids raised $190,000, lots of it in small change, for the statues. It’s a very inviting installation. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The six individual statues were created by Lawrence Ludtke, who died in 2007 at age 77. A synopsis of a 2013 biography of Ludtke by Amy L. Bacon notes he was “disciple of Classical sculpture in a time of pervasive abstract modernism” who once played in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. Ludtke’s works are on display at many famous locales, including the Pentagon, CIA Headquarters and the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The smiling kids in the Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren (referred to as the Tribute to Texas Children on the State Preservation Board’s website) proved to be a hit with Capitol visitors, especially, and appropriately, kids on field trips to the Capitol, according to Chris Currens, director of special projects at the Preservation Board.

“It almost immediately became popular with visitors due to its approachable nature and scale,” Currens told me. “Visitors often pose with the children and hang and/or lean on them while taking photos. Unfortunately, this unintended wear and tear has led to structural issues.”

What’s art to some is a playground to others.

The wearing and tearing comes in part from kids who think, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I jumped on his back like my little brother?” Currens said.

Funny? Maybe. Monument-friendly? No.

By May 2000, one of the kid statues had to be removed, repaired and reinstalled. But the damage continued. In August 2006, a second kid was removed for what Currens called “safekeeping.” Ditto for another one in October 2006, leaving four kids where the sign clearly says there are supposed to be six. And all six are suffering.

“Currently,” Currens reports, “all six sculptures show various degrees of wear from children hanging on them, which causes hairline cracks.”

Kids, how about not hanging on your monument? Do you see Confederate soldiers climbing on the Confederate Soldiers monument at the Capitol? No, you don’t. At least I never have, and I’m older than you. Ditto for Texas pioneer women, Hood’s Texas Brigade or any other group honored in a Capitol grounds monument.

The four remaining kids are kind of irresistible. As a grandfather, I found myself wanting to take them for ice cream. And the Sills kids from Dripping Springs — Hannah, 7; Parker, 5; and Andrew, 3 — couldn’t resist touching the statues on a recent Capitol visit with their dad, Travis Sills.

I interrupted to have the kids look at the sign and do the math.

Hannah and Parker quickly calculated that four does not equal six. Parker had a theory on what happened to the missing two: “They died?” He had another theory: “I think the wind blowed it off.” I told them what happened as they continued to touch — but not hang on — the statues.

Enjoying my moment as Mr. Know It All, I also asked tourist Brenda Parsons of Helotes, near San Antonio, for her theory about the missing kids.

“I think that they probably got budget cutted,” she said, immediately questioning her own grammar. “So only four children can afford to go to school now, not six.”

Currens says all six statues need to be reinforced with a metal bracing system. I don’t know, I might have just gone with an electric fence to keep the kids away, but I guess that could be seen as less inviting.

Once braced, all six will have to be reinstalled. And there’s also an issue with a need to build up the site to prevent the ponding of water. I’m for that. We wouldn’t want the Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren to sometimes look like the Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren Wading Ankle Deep in Standing Water That Might Attract Mosquitoes That Can Spread Disease or at Least Cause Itching or Discomfort That Has To Be Treated Topically.

On the positive side, the mosquitoes might keep real kids off the statue kids.

Currens’ current ballpark estimate is that it will take $50,000 for the rehab. No state money has been set aside for this. Fundraising drives for Capitol monuments typically include a maintenance fund that’s 10 percent of the construction cost.

“The estimated repair cost to the schoolchildren monument exceeds the maintenance endowment, and the endowment was not envisioned to be used for significant modifications such as those needed for reinforcing the child sculptures,” Currens told me.

So we’re in the preliminary stages of getting the folks who originally paid for the statues to pay for the needed changes. Or maybe you’re going to pay for it.

Mark Terry, TEPSA’s deputy executive director, remembers kids at the East Texas intermediate school in Gladewater where he worked raising money for the monument back in the 1990s.

“We had a little box” for donations, he recalled, “and I made a presentation to my kids and said this is going to be from kids all over the state. They were very enthusiastic and gave their pennies and nickels and dimes.”

He said he has seen “kids getting their picture taken with it and hanging on them and that kind of stuff.” His own kids did so.

“I don’t know if I want to go out to kids again and raise another $50,000, which we could do,” he said. “It might be nice for the state to step up and help us with that. ... I have a couple of friends who are legislators. I think they would carry that. When you look at the state budget, this is like allowance money. I would hope they would help us out in keeping the grounds looking good.”

This is where I’m tempted to say to heck with the kids. They messed up the statues — let them raise the money to rehab them and to bring the two missing ones out of the warehouse. Or how about if, when repaired, we charge kids 50 cents to hang on the statues. That’s what tax-hating lawmakers call a “user fee.”

Terry, of course, sees it differently. The state should pay, he said. “What a great feel-good story. We could bring in kids and rededicate it.”

And ask them to keep their grubby mitts off the statues?

No, says Terry. 'I want them to hang on it. I want them to get their picture on it.'"

Type of publication: Newspaper

When was the article reported?: 9/24/2016

Publication: Ausin American-Statesman

Article Url: [Web Link]

Is Registration Required?: no

How widespread was the article reported?: regional

News Category: Editorial

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