San Luis Obispo divided on city’s public art

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The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is home to a statue of Father Junipero Serra, a controversial figure city councilmembers are debating whether or not to honor. Photo credit: Harrison Lai (CC BY 2.0)

The city of San Luis Obispo is divided on what its public art should look like going forward. 

The city has plans to erect a sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt in a local park. Supporters want to commemorate Roosevelt’s conservation of California public land. But the statue also offends other residents who say Roosevelt unfairly treated native populations. 

The proposed statue has started a wider debate about what kind of monuments should be allowed in public spaces. How should we reflect on history, and should we honor ideas over individual people?