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RESIDENTS WEIGH IN ON DISPUTED SCULPTURE

Members of the Buffalo Arts Commission call it profound, timely and creative. Some community residents call it ugly, confusing and offensive.

The model for the "Guardian Angel" statue that has drawn such heated discussion is only about a foot tall. But if members of the Arts Commission get their way, local artist Kenneth Payne will create the statue 12 feet high for display in the lobby of the Ferry-Fillmore District police station, at Fillmore Avenue and West Ferry Street.

The statue's fate now rests in the hands of the Common Council, which agreed to table a vote to approve funding for the sculpture pending discussion at Thursday night's meeting at the precinct. Masten Council Member Antoine Thompson called the meeting so concerned residents could hear the commission's rationale for choosing the statue from among 30 other entries.

The project is the first to be chosen through a new city ordinance that requires that all public works projects costing more than $1 million earmark 1 percent of their budget for a public art component. Project judges defended their choice for its symbolic merit.

"The artist directs the viewer past the race or ethnicity of the police officer to the very core and purpose of the profession of law enforcement as guardian and protector of the land," said Renee Brown, a painter and member of the judging panel.

Only about six of the 25 people who attended the meeting were Masten District residents. Several called the statue "unrepresentative" of their community.

Officer Nadine Wilson of the Ferry-Fillmore District said Muslim and Native American officers, "whose religions don't believe in angels," shouldn't be subjected to art that defies their beliefs.

Others belittled the statue's design, doubting its link to police work.

"Policemen don't walk around wearing angels pinned on them, or blue hearts, or looking all disemboweled," said Solar Ingram, a Masten District resident. "If that was what they were all about, that's what they'd look like."

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