It’s impossible to estimate the cost to repair the strap.
A weekly feature of The Times to help you get action from local governments and others.
What’s holding up Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s guitar? Sure, he’s got a hand on the strings down at the lower frets, but nothing is holding the instrument up right and proper.
He’s a gifted musician who influenced a generation of performers — but not a magician.
If you’ve walked in front of the downtown near the Shreve Memorial Library or the Caddo Parish Courthouse, you’ve seen the statue. Maybe you’ve stopped and wondered the same thing.
Why is the guitar strap broken between Lead Belly’s left shoulder and the neck of the guitar?
The bronze statue, which was created by artist Jesse Pitts, has been on that spot on Texas Street since 1996.
After a warranty period where the artist is responsible for the statue, repairs fall to the City of Shreveport, said Pam Atchison, executive director of the Shreveport Regional Art Council. The city tries to maintain public art as funds permit. There are no designated funds for the maintenance of public art, she said.
Public art projects like Shreveport’s statue of Lead Belly are usually funded through National Endowment for the Arts grants matched by the City of Shreveport and the private sector.
“Our City does what it can to repair and maintain artworks such as the recent repainting of the ‘Symbiosis’ sculpture at the Common Street gateway into downtown, and the lighting of the ‘Once in a Millennium Mural,’” Atchison said in an e-mail.
The Shreveport Regional Arts Council, on behalf of the City of Shreveport, will accept designated funds for repair of the statue, Atchison said. Though it will be difficult to estimate costs and the time to make the repairs.
The original sculpture cost $60,000 to create and install, she said.
“The piece was cast in Ft. Worth, and we have not been able to imagine the cost of the bronze strap replacement, since it is a very involved process with the need to create the wax recast (and) possibly transporting the entire sculpture to Ft. Worth for bronze casting … the process can take as long as six months,” she said.
A goal for SRAC is to research creation of a public art maintenance fund, Atchison said.
“Other cities have the funds to create and maintain artworks in the public domain through an ordinance that calls for 1.5-2 percent of Capital Construction/Outlay funds to be dedicated to publicly accessible artworks and to produce a maintenance fund for restoring and repairing the artworks over the long-term life of the work,” she said.
The annual Lead Belly Graveside Jam will be held Saturday, Oct. 28. Louisiana musicians will gather at his grave to perform his songs.
“It would be a great “birthday present” to the City’s tribute to Huddie to receive gifts dedicated to replacing his bronze strap,” Atchison said.
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(Henrietta Wildsmith/The Times)
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