Controversial statue finds new home near police headquarters

The dilemma of what to do with Kansas City’s controversial shoe-in-mouth public art sculpture has been solved.

City officials knew last year that the “Modern Communication” statue in front of the city’s police communications headquarters had to be moved to make way for a building expansion.

But they worried about finding another appropriate site for the piece, which depicts a businessman standing on top of a briefcase with a tie covering his eyes, a shoe in his mouth and fingers in his ears.

Since the satiric piece was installed in the 1990s, it’s come in for its share of both compliments and criticism.

“Finding a new home would be a challenge. It’s site-specific. It certainly has something of a conflicted past,” said Porter Arneill, the city’s public art administrator. “Some people like it. Some people don’t.”

Arneill says he did get a few proposals last year for alternate locations. A councilmember approached him about putting it in a park. Some Crossroads Art District representatives expressed interest. But any site was going to present challenges.

Plus, New Mexico artist Terry Allen really wanted it to remain connected to the communications building for which it was designed.

Turns out, Arneill said, it won’t have to be mothballed or moved far away at all.

Instead of its perch in front of the communications building at 11th and Locust streets, it can be moved around the corner to a new location between the police building and Municipal Court. Arneill said he discovered there’s still enough room for the sculpture, even with the police headquarters expansion.

The artist was amenable to the change. The sculpture will be removed and stored during construction, scheduled to start in May or June. It will be reinstalled later, possibly by spring 2013.

It may even be an improvement over the current location.

“In that plaza, it was somewhat hidden in the shade and shadows,” Arneill said. “It’s actually going to be more prominent and will have some lighting in the day. Actually, this may be a better solution.”