By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun
8:45 PM EST, November 12, 2012
Three years after an Inner Harbor statue of William Donald Schaefer was unveiled, admirers of the city's first African-American mayor want to erect a statue of him nearby.
A nonprofit foundation created to honor the late Clarence "Du" Burns, who succeeded Schaefer, is asking the city for permission to place an 8-foot-tall statue on the Inner Harbor's west shore, 800 feet south of the Schaefer statue.
"What we want to do is tell Du's story, not just that he was the first African-American mayor of Baltimore but the role he played in the creation of the Inner Harbor" and other economic development initiatives, said Sean D. Burns, a local attorney who heads the Clarence "Du" Burns Memorial Fund Inc. "It's been a long time coming."
Burns, a great-nephew of the former mayor, said the bronze statue already has been fabricated and his group intends to donate it to the city.
Created by Maryland artist Simmie Knox, the statue depicts the former mayor in a short-sleeved shirt, holding a jacket over his left shoulder and walking with a young boy holding a book bearing the title "Science."
Baltimore's Public Art Commission, which reviews plans for statues and other works of art on city-owned property, is scheduled to consider plans for the Burns statue and landscaping at a meeting Nov. 21. If the panel gives its approval, the statue could be in place within the next year.
Although no other mayoral statues have been proposed in recent years, commission members have expressed concerns at past meetings about such statues being concentrated at the Inner Harbor. They suggested that other locations be considered.
Baltimore already has several other statues of former mayors, including Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. at Charles Center and Samuel Smith on Federal Hill.
Burns said he believes the Inner Harbor is the most appropriate setting because his great-uncle was chairman of the City Council's urban affairs committee when it considered plans for key Inner Harbor redevelopment projects such as Harborplace, the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Maryland Science Center. He added that Burns was the first urban affairs committee chairman to hold public meetings out in the community rather than at City Hall.
The preferred site for the statue is just off the Inner Harbor promenade, in West Shore Park near the Maryland Science Center. Burns said it would anchor the south end of the park, just as the Schaefer statue anchors the north end.
According to Carol Macht of Hord Coplan Macht, the landscape architect for the project, plantings around the Burns statue would be similar to those in West Shore Park and around the Schaefer statue.
"We're trying to make it feel as if it's integrated" with the surrounding area, she said. "We want to use the same palette" of materials.
Burns said the project is expected to cost $400,000 to $500,000 and the foundation already has raised $300,000 in public funds — $100,000 from a state allocation and $200,000 from the city. Burns said the rest will be raised from private sources, and the foundation needs to have an approved location to show potential donors as part of its fundraising efforts.
Tracy Baskerville, a spokesperson for Baltimore's Office of Promotion and the Arts, which provides staff to support the public art commission, said the foundation will be seeking final approval of the preferred site at the Nov. 21 meeting.
The statue of Schaefer, who was elected to four terms as mayor, was dedicated on Nov. 2, 2009, his 88th birthday. Burns said his organization is aiming to have the new statue in place sometime in 2013. His great-uncle's birthday was Sept. 13 and he would like to have the statue installed in time for a dedication then.
He said the former mayor is depicted holding the hand of a boy with a book because "he knew education was a key to success" and "he loved kids."
Van Reiner, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Science Center, said he supports plans to place the statue nearby because Burns had a key role in the center's development and was a champion of education.
"I am in favor of it," Reiner said. "I think it's appropriate that someone who emphasized education would have a statue in front of an educational institution."
Born in 1918, "Du" Burns was president of the Baltimore City Council in January 1987 when Schaefer left the mayor's office to become governor. Burns automatically succeeded Schaefer as mayor and held the city's top office for less than a year.
Burns ran for a four-year term but was defeated in the September 1987 primary by Kurt L. Schmoke, who won the general election. Burns died in 2003 at age 84.
Sean Burns said the statue is just one of several projects of the memorial fund. It also sponsors internship programs for young people. So far, he said, the fund has placed six "fellows" in internships with elected officials and others, including U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
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