SANDPOINT — It has survived controversy, complaints and at least one arson attempt, but the Tolerance sculpture at the Bonner County Courthouse is not enduring the elements too well.
“The legs are rotting off,” Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor said of the sculpture’s timbers.
Commissioners began deliberations Tuesday on what to do with the sculpture, but put off a decision until they had a chance to discuss the matter with those who donated the piece to the county 11 years ago.
The 10-foot-tall timber-and-steel structure was borne out of a controversy surrounding an Aryan Nations plan to march through town in 2001. The parade never happened, although the community still banded together to promote racial and social tolerance by staging an event called Celebrate Sandpoint.
The sculpture designed by artist David Kraisler as part of the Celebrate Sandpoint initiative.
The piece was first offered to the city of Sandpoint, but it passed on the offer because it lacked a public art policy at the time. There were concerns that acceptance of the sculpture would inspire other groups to donate outdoor art and demand equal consideration.
The county readily agreed to take the piece.
Assessor Jerry Clemons was a member of the county commission which agreed to give Tolerance a home on the courthouse lawn.
“I supported it then and still support it,” said Clemons.
But over the years, the county began receiving complaints that the sculpture appeared to depict a sex act. Others have defended it as an unconventional piece of modern art that defied easy explanation.
At one point, somebody tried to burn the sculpture down by spraying it with expanding foam insulation and setting it afire.
Charring is still evident on the sculpture’s timbers. And so is the wood decay.
Clemons and Rasor, in addition to fellow Commissioner Mike Nielsen, stressed that they strongly supported the sentiment behind Tolerance, but admitted they didn’t think much of the piece’s artistic merits.
Nielsen and Commissioner Lewie Rich said their constituents have expressed objections to the sculpture.
“There is no sympathy for the statue. They would like it to go away,” said Rich.
Further complicating the issue is ongoing expansion of the courthouse. The third phase of the project involves expanding the building onto the front lawn and possible parking lot expansion.
“The difficulty is (that) at some point, that statue is going to have to be moved,” said Rasor.