Next stop for 'Goddess of Commerce' statue: Atop Carlton Center Building?

Supporters of a plan to re-create the so-called ‘Goddess of Commerce’ — a statue that once represented Tacoma’s economy, adorned the former Chamber of Commerce building downtown, and was destroyed nearly 70 years ago — are now setting their sites on placing the statue atop the Carlton Center Building, located at 1551 Broadway, in downtown Tacoma. The topic is slated to be discussed March 10 during Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) meeting. According to a Feb. 24 letter from artist Marilyn Mahoney to the LPC, a building permit was submitted to City Hall on Feb. 9 in order to gain permission to place the 700-pound, seven-foot tall, $122,000 bronze Goddess of Commerce statue on the northeast rooftop corner of the building.

It is the latest chapter in a two-year-long saga of fund-raising and trying to find a site for the artwork.

In 2008, Griselda “Babe” Lehrer, a long-time Tacoma community organizer, partnered with the Tacoma Historical Society (THS) to lead a fund-raising effort to create the statue and place it in Tollefson Plaza downtown. According to Lehrer and THS, the original ‘Goddess of Commerce’ statue stood on the rooftop of the former Chamber of Commerce building, which was located at South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue. The building was constructed in 1880 and torn down — along with the original 10-foot statue — in 1940.

According to THS’s Web site, Mahoney created a model of the new Goddess of Commerce. In one arm, she cradles a miniature model of the city’s skyline, including the Museum of Glass cone. The model freighter in her left hand signifies maritime commerce, crane earrings represent Tacoma’s identity as a major port, and salmon streaming down her back represent the fishing industry.

In 2009, Mahoney requested the City take ownership of the statue and site it in Pierce Transit Plaza, which is on Broadway and near Theatre on the Square and Pantages Theater, according to an Oct. 15 memo from Ryan Petty, director of the City’s community and economic development department, to City Manager Eric Anderson, and minutes from the Tacoma Arts Commission’s Sept. 14 meeting. The Arts Commission, however, rejected that plan during its Oct. 12 meeting. It listed nearly two-dozen reasons based on its gift and accession policies. According to the memo, the commission’s major concerns included:

— Placing the statue in Pierce Transit Plaza was not appropriate because it was not designed for the area and would be out of context. Also, five other public art pieces would be within view of the proposed location, and alternate uses, such as the Broadway Farmer’s Market, would be negatively impacted;

— The artwork, though well-intentioned, lacks artistic merit or significant aesthetic quality. According to the commission, the artist has no reputation, exhibition record or market, and the appraisal of the piece came in over $20,000 less than the cost to produce the piece;

— A lack of support from surrounding community members, such as the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) and the Farmer’s Market. According to the commission, both organizations submitted letters of concern of the statue’s proposed siting;

— Commissioners were uncomfortable adding the statue to the City’s art collection because it included donor names. The commission was unclear as to what the obligation of the City would be to the donors and to how the donor relationship worked between the fund-raisers and those contributing money.

— Then-Tacoma City Councilmember Julie Anderson, who served on the commission as a council liaison, was concerned about cultural sensitivity and the need for a thorough cultural review by the Puyallup Tribe. In promotional literature, the statue has been described as having the face of a Native American woman. According to the Oct. 15 memo, early concerns from Puyallup tribal members regarding the lack of cultural sensitivity have been raised;

— The long-term cost to the City for stewardship and maintenance of the statue, and potential siting and re-siting, is unclear.

The LPC will discuss the latest plan for the Goddess of Commerce on Weds., March 10, at 5:00 p.m. in Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens. For more information, visit .

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For earlier Index coverage of the Goddess of Commerce, click on the following links:

‘Goddess of Commerce’ project remains in limbo —

Movement grows to place goddess of commerce statue near Tollefson Plaza —

For more information about the Goddess of Commerce fund-raising effort, click here —