ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University officials announced Tuesday in a press release that the institution and local artist Jerry Anderson have reached an agreement regarding the future of the “The Rebels” statue that had been on display on the campus until Dec. 6, 2012, when it was removed in the face of mounting controversy over its Confederate theme and what that implied as the school moved towards university status.
Under the terms of the agreement, DSU has returned the statue to Anderson, who is the artistic rights holder, the university’s press release stated. The statue has been delivered to Anderson’s personal studio in Leeds and, in turn, Anderson has agreed to donate other artwork to the university for permanent display.
“We are very appreciative of Mr. Anderson’s generous artistic contributions, not only to Dixie State University, but to the entire region,” DSU President Dr. Richard B. Williams said. “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.”
In 1982, Anderson created a small sculpture, “Retreat,” that was inspired by the song “Two Little Boys,” written by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden, which tells the story of two little boys who grew up and were reunited as Union soldiers (boys in blue) on the battlefield during the Civil War.
In 1983, Anderson was commissioned to create a life-size monument with the same theme; this time the two soldiers would be from the South, which tied the piece to Utah’s Dixie.
“The reason I created it was one man helping another,” Anderson told St. George News, “and for the Rebels in the ’80s that’s what it was created for, their mascot.”
The monument was first installed at the Green Valley Mall and later donated in January 1987 to the original Dixie Convention Center then located on the Dixie State campus. In 1993, Dixie Convention Center operations were moved into its current facility, the Dixie Center St. George on South Convention Center Drive. The statue, however, remained on the Dixie campus.
As Dixie State began its final push toward attaining university status in 2012, which included discussions about rebranding the school, “The Rebels” statue became a focal point of contention in regards to the future identity of the institution. In an effort to protect the integrity of the statue, Dixie State’s press release said, school officials had the sculpture removed from campus in early December 2012.
Anderson told St. George News he never expected the statue to create such controversy.
“It was created in behalf of the people in all the wars, don’t matter what flag it’s got,” Anderson said. “The base and the heart of it was one man helping another man in the field of battle.”
The flag itself is meaningless, he said, adding that people make political correction to everything.
“There’s controversy over everything,” he said. “If that flag was a German flag it’d be the same, sometimes if it’s an American one, it will be the same.”
Soon after the statue’s removal from campus, a question arose as to who the actual owner of the statue was, Dixie State’s press release said, whether it was the institution, the City of St. George, Washington County, Dixie Convention Center, or the original donors of the artwork to the convention center. Dixie State officials placed the statue in storage until the ownership issue was resolved. It was determined later that month that Dixie State was indeed the legal owner of the statue, the statement said.
Since then, school officials and the DSU Board of Trustees considered all possible options pertaining to the future of the statue before reaching its agreement with Anderson.
“I want to sincerely thank President Williams, (DSU Trustees Chair) Dr. Christina Durham, and (Trustee) Gail Smith for their time in meeting with me and for the care they showed in bringing this to a mutually beneficial resolution,” Anderson said. “I invite everyone to please come out to view the statue, take pictures of it, and enjoy it.”
Anderson’s studio is located at 2002 Wells Fargo Road in Leeds. The statue stands about 100 yards north of the Silver Reef Museum at the Wells Fargo Express Building in the Silver Reef area of Leeds.
“It’s here for people to enjoy,” Anderson said, “and I hope they do enjoy it and not harm it anyway.”
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