‘Rebels’ statue returned to artist

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Administration at Dixie State University returned “The Rebels” statue to local artist Jerry Anderson after reaching an agreement to exchange artwork. 

“The Rebels” statue was removed from the DSU campus in December 2012 amongst controversy that linked the statue’s confederate theme to racism. The poem that inspired the statue, “Two Little Boys,” is about union soldiers, but the statue adopted a confederate theme to mirror the Dixie name, Anderson said.

Steve Johnson, DSU director of public relations, said the statue was returned to Anderson’s gallery in Leeds on Jan. 12. In return, Anderson will donate other artwork to the university.

“They asked if I would trade some artwork,” Anderson said. “They would be satisfied with work of equal value in exchange for ‘The Rebels’ statue.”

The art that will be traded and permanently displayed on DSU’s campus has not yet been agreed on. Jeffrey Jarvis, dean of visual and performing arts, Kathy Cieslewicz, Sears Art Museum Gallery curator,  DSU President Biff Williams, and select members of the board of trustees will be visiting Anderson’s gallery in the near future to decide what artwork will be taken in trade.

“He wanted to share his artwork, and it’s beautiful; he is a wonderful artist,” said Christina Durham, board of trustees chair.

Anderson and members of the board of trustees had been in discussion about the fate of the statue since its removal. It was not until Anderson started working with Williams, Durham and trustee Gail Smith that mutually beneficial solutions started being presented, Anderson said.

“We are very appreciative of Mr. Anderson’s generous artistic contributions, not only to [DSU], but to the entire region,” Williams said in a press release. “We are grateful to Jerry for working with us, and we look forward to displaying his work on this campus for everyone to view and enjoy in the years to come.” 

The statue was Anderson’s first life-size piece of art. Since the 1980s, he has created more than 60 others that are placed across the country. His reputation since the statue’s return has caused a lot of interest from hopeful art curators. However, Anderson said he wants the statue to stay in Dixie.

“I wanted to put it in the heart of Dixie, but they said it could not be within so many miles of the university,” Anderson said. 

University officials along with the board of trustees explored all options in relation to the future of the statue before coming to this agreement with Anderson, Johnson said.

“The only thing that I have accomplished is that I got the statue back for Dixie,” Anderson said. “It’s back home.”

Anderson invites anyone interested to come to his gallery, located at 2002 Wells Fargo Road in Leeds, to view, photograph and enjoy “The Rebels” statue.