I’ve been doing an inventory this spring of the “Missing Student” statues and “Student Success Story” statues for City College of San Francisco’s Works of Art Committee (see my November 2012 posting for background on the statues). Leslie Smith, the CCSF administrator who organized the two big batch productions ten and four years ago, retired last fall, and Fred Kling, the main supervising artist for the projects, retired this spring. Given these departures, and the perilous status of the college, the fate of these statues is uncertain.
Most of the “Success” statues are unseen, protected in locked bungalow. The Missing Students are more visible. For years they have stood along the walls of the student cafeteria in unmarked anonymity, unacknowledged by most students, gathering dust. The soda cans and trash wads thrown on the carts confirmed their degraded status. I called up the chair of the Culinary Program to talk in May but the conversation did not happen, and I still plan to contact her. The number of Missing Students statues seemed to be dwindling too, cause unknown. I counted and photographed the ones that remained, and looked into a few of the Missing Students on display in the library. One staff member sent me some photos of some Statues that had been put on a loading dock of the main library, a worrisome location.
When I reported on the statues at the Works of Art Committee, and mentioned the loading dock, retired librarian Julia Bergman, who knows the building inside out, took me to the loading dock. We found nothing. Later she e-mailed me and said she noticed some by a fence in the Recycling Yard, on the outer edges of the campus.
In June, I finally wandered over to the Recycling Yard while visiting campus to prepare for a summer class. Three were lined up behind a fence next to the gate, figures in a garden. A few feet away was a grey abstract sculpture, which was an MS statue that had been sliced into sections, and held together by some kind of metal backbone structure. Though these four statues seemed to have found a comfortable resting space, what I found across the Yard was more unsettling.
Bordered by a fence and pine trees sheltering the campus from the 280 Freeway, and surrounded by discarded desks, a dumpster, and scores of blue recycling bins, stood about twenty Missing Students statues. Many were on the same wooden carts they had stood on in the cafeteria. A few were lying down. Others were lined up against the fence, awaiting fate. I’m sure the workers who placed them in large planter pot were both saving space and securing them, but it certainly looks like they are on their way out.
Further to the left was a caged statue, and furthest off, framed by weeds and blue recycling bins, was the “wheel of fortune” statue, having lost its carnival-esque luster, and looking like a more pathetic victim than ever.
Their artistic qualities vary, but they are imperiled representations of real students whose fate remains very uncertain. Are they headed for the dump?