Since 2014, Geneva has officially celebrated the life and legacy of jazz bassist Scott LaFaro around his birthday in April. The group behind Geneva Night Out successfully lobbied to have a stretch of downtown street named in his honor. Another committee organizes an annual concert at The Smith Opera House. Tonight, at City Council the Public Art Committee will present a plan to erect a statue honoring LaFaro. It’s an idea that’s starting to gain traction, but it’s actually been on the mind of Kevin Dunn, a professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges for more than a decade.
“We’ve got statues all over this country for people with questionable pasts and commemorated for questionable reasons. Whether they were great military leaders, quote unquote great military leaders, who then either slaughtered thousands or oversaw the death of their own troops by the thousands. Whether it’s Stonewall Jackson or Robert E. Lee or whoever. We’ve got markers all over this area for General Sullivan who basically did a purge if not genocide of the Iroquois nation in this neck of the woods. I thought to myself, what we should really be commemorating are the artists, right, are the cultural producers of this society.”
The ad hoc committee that’s working to make the statue a reality includes one of Dunn’s colleagues at the Colleges, Ted Aub. He’s a professor in the Department of Art and Architecture and has designed the statue and cast a conceptual model.
“The main thing I’m trying to bring out in the work is this relationship he had to music. It’s just him and his bass, but the bass is just an object. He’s a human, but he brings that object to life. It also speaks to an era. It was an interesting time in the country. The late 50s early 60s we were in a kind of transition. In the sculpture he’s wearing the kind of tight jacket. It’s the Mad Men era look. And, it was a little bit of an innocent time before the social unrest of the 1960s. So, there was a loss of innocence and I think what I’m trying to capture in that sculpture also is a little bit of that hope, an innocent era just before things sort of broke loose in the U.S.”
Obviously, a project of this kind will involve a considerable investment, but tonight’s presentation to City Council isn’t a request for funds.
“So, the proposal is actually to get permission to do this. It’s going to be located there on Seneca Street and Linden Street/Scott LaFaro Way, that intersection there that most people recognize as right across from the FLounge, as that corner of the Smith parking lot. We need to have permission in order to do the site design and development and to place the statue.”
Once approval is given, fundraising for the project can begin in earnest, though some money has been raised already. You can learn more about the project and see a photo of Professor Aub’s conceptual model on the Scott LaFaro Statue Project’s website.