Vandalism On Dockum Sit-In Sculpture Affects Plans For Permanent Memorial

Dec 2, 2016

Months-old vandalism on the Dockum Sit-in sculpture in downtown Wichita is affecting plans for future memorials to the historic protest in civil rights history.

The 1958 Dockum Drug Store Sit-in is considered the first successful lunch counter sit-in the U.S. Earlier this year, the Kansas African American Museum received a grant to make a permanent exhibit at the location, which is now the Ambassador Hotel.

Planning for the project is still in early stages, but Mark McCormick, executive director of the Kansas African American Museum, says bright orange spray paint marring the surface of a nearby sculpture honoring the three-week-long sit in has had an effect on the planning. 

"We're in early discussions about how it's going to look, what it's going say. We're just talking about what we want it to communicate," McCormick says of the permanent exhibit. "One of the issues that we brought up was that public art gets vandalized." 

He says the group planning the new memorial is looking at what kind of things can be done to make it "vandalism proof," or to decrease the chances of it being defaced.

McCormick says he first saw that graffiti in July while visiting the sculpture with a few members of the original sit-in. The existing 20-foot-long bronze sculpture depicts the sit-in with a lunch counter and patrons on stools.

"It made me wonder if the vandals understood the significance of that particular piece," McCormick says. "The other pieces up and down Douglas don't have that same importance." 

A representative from the city says officials were made aware of the graffiti as long ago as September, but the problem "slipped through the cracks." 

A plan to clean the sculpture and others in the area that have been vandalized is reportedly in the works. 

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