Statues of James and Willard Rouse coming out of storage into the light


You can see James W. Rouse's fingerprints all over Columbia, but you can't see him.

A statue of the town's founder, who died in 1996, has been tucked away in storage closets for about 2 1/2 years, forced out of sight by vandalism and indecision.

The wait has been long and perhaps a little undignified for a man revered here for welcoming people of all races, faiths and incomes to his new town.

Locked up with the sculpture in a Columbia Art Center storage area is a companion statue of Rouse's older brother, Willard G. Rouse, who was executive vice president of the Rouse Co. The bronze younger brother holds court, punctuating some point with an extended right hand. Willard Rouse is his captive audience, dutifully taking notes.

The slightly larger-than-life Rouse brothers are about to have more company. The Columbia Council decided last week to move the statues to the downtown lakefront, which draws thousands of people to its restaurants, offices and events.

"This is a piece of art we feel has a lot to do with Columbia and its beginnings," said Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown. "I think it's a symbol of his vision of Columbia. It seems as though he's talking about Columbia with his brother -- his vision, a place that would grow people."

Named "Dealings," the two statues are the work of Baltimore sculptor William Duffy. They were placed outside the Symphony Woods office building in Town Center in 1986. Rouse & Associates, which commissioned the work for about $70,000, owned the building at the time.

The building changed hands several times, and the statues stayed with it. About 2 1/2 years ago, after a vandalism attempt, owners PMRealty Advisors put the bronze brothers into storage. In June 2000, the company sold the statutes to the Columbia Association for $10,000.

Since then, the association has tried to figure out what to do with the pair.

The Columbia Council wants a task force to decide where on the shores of Lake Kittamaqundi to place the statues and whether a plaque with a quotation or some other text should be added.

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