Olympian Jamie Anderson disappointed with lack of female representation in Champions Plaza statue
The prototype of a large bronze statue commissioned for South Lake Tahoe’s Champions Plaza in celebration of local athletes has sparked a discussion on gender representation.
At the Sept. 20 city council meeting, artist Gareth Curtiss presented the clay prototype of the statue he created, featuring three male figures emerging from flames and reaching for a ring above them.
“My concept is a statue that represents the elements of competition. The figures themselves are like tongues of flames that are leaping up in the air after the ring,” Curtiss told mayor and council.
“So you have three figures— only one has his hand on the ring. The other two are very close.”
A selection committee, with input from local art teachers, artists and others in the industry, chose Curtiss’ “Spirit of Competition” from 10 proposals submitted last year.
Curtiss operates a studio in Shelton, Washington, and a foundry in Fortine, Montana.
During the selection process, the subject of gender representation was never brought up by those assessing the proposals, said City Manager Nancy Kerry.
Mayor Pro Tem Austin Sass, however, was the first at the council meeting to bring up the fact that there were no women depicted in the statue.
“We talked earlier about how there are three men on there, but just for the public’s information, can you explain why you did not incorporate a woman?”
Curtiss said it was something he had debated over.
“I thought, if I created a woman in the statue is she going to have her hand on the ring? Is she going to not have her hand on the ring and is that going to cause an issue?” explained Curtiss.
“So I thought well, I’ll take a different tactic. Basically these are just elemental spirits as opposed to representing actual people.”
“When you create a work of art, you can’t please everybody,” he added.
Councilmember Tom Davis spoke up twice in support of incorporating a female figure into the statue, which will ultimately be 10 feet tall and cast in bronze.
“Most of our gold medal winners in town are women. So I’d just like you to think about that and consider that seriously. I do think there should be at least one woman incorporated in that,” noted Davis.
Lake Tahoe native Jamie Anderson, who won a gold medal for slopestyle snowboarding at the 2014 Winter Olympics among numerous other accolades in her career, heard about the statue’s lack of female representation from a friend. The situation is disappointing, she said.
“They should definitely showcase women a bit more clearly and represent us as we are, three kick-ass Olympic women athletes,” said Anderson, referring to fellow Olympians and snowboarders with South Shore roots, Maddie Bowman and Hannah Teter.
Kerry later told Tahoe Daily Tribune that Curtiss is considering the input.
“He said he would take that into consideration, and may be looking at making one of them more like a women. We want him to determine what is best as an artist,” said Kerry.
The statue, which will be the focal point of the plaza, is expected to be installed next summer. It cost the city $75,000 and is part of a push to incorporate more public art.
Kerry said the city is currently working to finalize how they will display the names of prominent local athletes at Champions Plaza, which is located at the corner of Lakeview Avenue and Highway 50.