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Debate over Controversial Statue Resumes

This statue, located in front of the police communications building, has sparked years of controversy in Kansas City about art and interpretation.
Brenna Daldorph/KCUR
This statue, located in front of the police communications building, has sparked years of controversy in Kansas City about art and interpretation.

Renovations of the police communications building mean that a well-known statue will have to find a new home. Will it be sent to storage or be moved to another public spot in Kansas City? The debate is on!


KANSAS CITY, MO – At the center of this long-standing Kansas City art controversy is a businessman. He sports a suit, a tie and dress shoes and owns a fine briefcase. But as he stands outside the police communications building at 11th and Locust, he doesn't blend in with the stream of lawyers, city officials, communications staff and court goers.


His tie forms a blindfold over his eyes, his shoe in his mouth and his fingers plug his ears. He is a life-sized bronze statue called Modern Communication by creator Terry Allen.

Since it was erected fifteen years ago, this statue has provoked controversy in Kansas City. Its meaning depends on your interpretation. Does it describe failures of modern communication? Or is it a mockery of the police's ability to communicate with the public?

With a new renovation of the police communications building on the horizon, the city has the option to move the sculpture, or put it into storage. Kansas Citians differ on their opinions of what should be done.

A Detractor

Aggie Stackhaus was on the city council when the statue was approved in 1995, and she disagreed with the "One Percent For Art" program that paid for it. She admits she isn't really a fan of public art, preferring to focus the city's budget on infrastructure. But she has a bone to pick with this statue in particular. She doesn't like the message it sends.

"I just find it incredibly sad that we have to plop art-work that makes people angry," Stackhaus says.

A Defender

Terry Allen is the artist behind the provocative sculpture. The bronze business man is a common theme in his work. Statues of this suited figure are on display in other cities across the nation: from San Francisco to Culver City, CO. He admits that he was a little surprised by Kansas City's heated response to Modern Communication, especially considering that he worked closely with an advisory committee composed of police representatives, city commissioners, and artists.

He says that he wanted to express common frustrations about lack of communication.

"I don't see how you can help but relate it to yourself?" Allen says. "You laugh at it and then you realize that it is an extension of your own doofiness, your own inadequacies at perceiving things."

As for the future, Allen hopes that the statue will find a home in the public's eye view.

"You always want your work to do something," he says. "You don't want it to just sit there."

Other Thoughts

What do other Kansas Citians think about the statue? Most of the people we interviewed outside the police communications building appreciated the bronze figure.

"Its good quality art. I don't think I could do anything like that," said one passer-by.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.

Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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