University Says State Representative Has Its Sculpture

David E. Parvin

Chicago State U. has asked State Rep. Monique Davis of Illinois to return "Defiance," a life-size bronze statue of an African slave.
January 25, 2010

No one knows how a Chicago university's $25,000 sculpture vanished, only to reappear in an Illinois state representative's office.

But so far, at least one thing is clear: Rep. Monique D. Davis, Democrat of Chicago, doesn't plan to send the 400-pound bronze sculpture anywhere until she has some answers.

Chicago State University officials discovered that the artwork, "Defiance," was missing from a warehouse during an audit in October. The sculpture of an enslaved African woman was purchased several years ago with state funds meant for a student financial-aid office, a Chicago State spokeswoman said.

Ms. Davis, whose biography says she has bachelor's and master's degrees from Chicago State, told the Chicago Sun-Times that she does not plan to keep the statue but is seeking a state and federal legal opinion. She did not return calls or e-mail messages from The Chronicle, but she told the Sun-Times that she planned to hold a news conference this week.

"I'll tell you this," Ms. Davis said, "I'm waiting for a response from a top legal authority in the State of Illinois. The student-aid center was a state-funded program. What happens to their property when that program is no longer funded? What happens to the equipment that was purchased?

"How in the hell does a 400-pound statue leave a state facility and they don't know where it is?"

Chicago State declined to comment beyond a six-sentence statement released on Friday.

The university's police chief, Ronnie Watson, told the Sun-Times that Ms. Davis had agreed to return the statue about two weeks ago but changed her mind several hours later. Police officers showed up at her office in Chicago the next morning, but Ms. Davis was in Springfield.

Patrick B. Cage, general counsel for the university, said in the statement that financial management is a priority for President Wayne D. Watson, who took office in October.

"The fact that this statue went missing points out security needs we must address to protect university assets," Mr. Cage said. "We're taking appropriate steps to recover the statue."