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Amid accusations of racism, billboards of KC sculpture taken down

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, Sep. 30, 2013, at 6:28 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at 6:23 a.m.


Billboards depicting a rifleman taking aim at the iconic Kansas City sculpture “The Scout” were taken down Monday after drawing a whirlwind of spirited reaction.

Artist A. Bitterman had rented the twin billboards near 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue in the Crossroads Arts District after Missouri Bank had accepted, but then rejected, the work for its Crossroads “Artboards” program.

The work went up Sept. 23 and was supposed to be displayed until Oct. 21, according to Bitterman’s website.

“I was very glad to see that,” Moses Brings Plenty said of the news that the billboards were taken down. A member of the Oglala Lakota nation and the community outreach coordinator for the Kansas City Indian Center, he had vociferously opposed the work as a symbol of racism and hatred.

“I did it for our children,” he said. “Our common enemy is racism.”

A message seeking comment from officials at CBS Outdoor, which had rented the billboard space, was not returned Monday.

Bitterman did not respond to an email seeking comment, but in a post on his website dated Sunday, he sought to explain his intention:

“The one thing that can not be disputed in my image is the fact that the Scout is not an indian at all, it is a depiction of an Indian, a sculpture, created by and for white culture, and it carries a historical narrative of what white people at the turn of the 20th century wanted the indian to be. The artist on the scaffolding is confronting that narrative.”

In an earlier post, Bitterman wrote, “If anything The Scout is a gesture in defense of the native American.”

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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