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Dedication Of Chuck Berry Statue Set For July 29

Installation does not violate U. City laws

Marc Weis, working with a team from VMD Sculpting, helps unload the Chuck Berry statue at the plaza on July 1. Looking on behind him are, from left: Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill; Harry Weber, sculptor; and Charlie Brennan, KMOX broadcaster.
Photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
July 13, 2011
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Tell Tchaikovsky the news. Despite concerns by some about its approval process and the background of the man it honors, a statue of St. Louis native and music icon Chuck Berry now stands in the Delmar Loop.

During the last week of June, the 8-foot tall statue, made by sculptor Harry Weber, was put up in a recently renovated plaza in the Loop. The plaza is just to the east of Fitz's and across from Blueberry Hill, where Berry still performs. The area will also be part of a bike path developed by the Great Rivers Greenway.

While the statue has been discussed for several years, it was still the subject of some debate less than a week before it was erected.

The University City Council held a discussion about the statue at its June 27 meeting at the request of Ward 2 Councilman Michael Glickert.

A major concern of Glickert's was the approval process for the statue. Neither the statue, nor any issue surrounding it, including its placement and cost, had ever been formally discussed or voted on by the council. The statue had been discussed by the city's arts and letters commission, which had approved it.

According to Mayor Shelly Welsch, former Mayor Joe Adams and former City Manager Julie Feier knew about the project and approved of it.

Welsch said a review of the city charter and city ordinances led by current City Manager Lehman Walker found that the statue was not in violations of any laws.

Welsch and several council members said that while some additional discussion may have been beneficial, there is nothing illegal about the statue. They said the situation can be used as a learning opportunity for the future.

They also noted that while Berry does have a criminal record relating to incidents that occurred several decades ago, and that they (the council) do not condone those actions, they also noted that Berry had served his time, and that he is still considered a major influence on music and culture not just nationally, but around the world. Several also mentioned the potential positive economic impact that the statue would have on the Loop as an attraction drawing people in.

Despite the positives noted by the council, some residents had concerns about the statue. Among them was former council member Elsie Glickert, the mother of current council member Michael Glickert.

At a meeting on June 13, Elsie Glickert presented the council with a petition that she said contained the names of more than 90 people who were opposed to the statue. Reasons for the opposition included Berry's background and the lack of discussion and concerns about cost to the city for upkeep of the statue, which is on public property.

Glickert also appeared at the June 27 meeting, telling the council: "If you have any respect for women you will not use our public property to place this unsolicited tribute to a felon who has violated women repeatedly. It is privately funded and belongs on private property."

She suggested that perhaps the statue be moved to property owned by Blueberry Hill owner Joe Edwards, who has been one of the proponents of the statue. Berry performs at Blueberry Hill once a month.

According to Edwards, Berry has played at the restaurant over 160 times. Berry's star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame is located directly in front of the restaurant.

"In December 2000, Chuck Berry received the highest honor an artist can receive in America, the Kennedy Center Award, with the President of the United States presenting," Edwards said. "The five honorees that year were Clint Eastwood, Angela Lansbury, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Placido Domingo and St. Louis' own Chuck Berry. They knew about his past a half-century ago when America and its court system were vastly different from today. Let us choose to honor a great artist whose music brought black and white youths together in the 20th century."

Edwards said the fact that the statue was paid for through private donations, and not with tax dollars, should be considered a positive. He also said that he believes that the bronze statue will require little upkeep or repair needs.

He noted that another bronze statue located near the downtown riverfront is occasionally covered when the Mississippi river rises, and he is not aware of any substantial damage that has happened to that statue.

A formal dedication of the sculpture is scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. on July 29.

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