Call it ‘The Poseidon Misadventure’

Tuesday, July 25, 2000

The president of the Sacramento, Calif., convention bureau admitted
today that his group erred in allowing a convention of Christian home-schooling
advocates to put clothing on a public statue, and he vowed it would not happen

Steve Hammond, president and CEO of the convention bureau, said in a
telephone interview that he recently was made aware of a city policy that bans
covering or defacing public art. When the convention bureau agreed to let the
convention-goers put outfits on a statue of Poseidon, Hammond said, “we
didn’t realize that policy was in place.”

“In the future, we will not allow any public art to be
covered,” Hammond added. “We will make other accommodations for
clients that have requests that are out of the ordinary.”

The 7-foot-tall statue, a replica of one in the National Archeological
Museum in Athens, was a gift to the city from the government of Greece in

Although pranksters have adorned the statute with fig leaves —
and even a bathing suit or two — over the years, its anatomical
correctness had never been much of an issue until July 3. That’s when about
2,500 home-schooling parents and their children from the Advanced Training
Institute International arrived at the Convention Center.

There they encountered Poseidon, who is the mythological Greek god of
the sea, in an open lawn area between the Convention Center and the Community
Center Theater.

Concerned that the nude statue would upset their children, the
convention-goers requested permission from the convention bureau to clothe the
statue for the duration of the convention, according to a report in the
Sacramento Bee. The bureau gave the

“In a store, when you have pornography on a shelf, a store owner
would cover it up,” Richard Barb, a conference attendee who helped
organize the clothing of the statue, told the Bee. “Here, we actually set it in place
and ask people to stare at it.”

While the convention was under way, the home-schoolers dressed the
statue daily in outfits that ranged from a toga to khaki slacks and a golf
shirt to a suit, tie and slacks. And each day, Sacramento residents
stealthily visited the statue and removed the clothing.

The citizen counter-attack surprised convention bureau officials,
Hammond said. Also to the surprise of convention officials, several Sacramento
residents did not let their irritation stop there. They wrote letters to
the editor of the Sacramento Bee
protesting the convention bureau’s decision, and they telephoned Hammond.

“We probably underestimated the sensitivity of our community in
terms of their feelings regarding the decision that we made,” Hammond
said. “I had probably a half a dozen phone calls from people who
shared their concern with me. The theme of most of the calls and most of
the (letters) was pretty consistent — that is to say that public art was
exactly that. (It is) for the enjoyment of those who live in or visit
Sacramento, and no one in the city should have the right to not allow people to
enjoy our art.”

Hammond was initially quoted in the Sacramento Bee as saying the decision was strictly
a business call. “I thought it was done in very good taste,” he
told the newspaper. “The statue is still there, and these people
brought a huge piece of business that has had great impact on our

“In retrospect, it probably was not a very good decision,”
Hammond says now. “The policy is clear. What happened a few
weeks ago will never happen again.”

Representatives of the convention bureau, city officials and other
interested individuals will meet tomorrow to discuss how to accommodate
“out of the ordinary” requests from convention groups in the future,
he added.

The goal will be figuring out how to “meet those requests without
infringing on rights of those people who live in or are visiting
Sacramento. We’re thinking about ways we would have pedestrian traffic
flow if Poseidon is the issue. We could put them in a different part of
the Convention Center so traffic patterns wouldn’t take them there,”
Hammond said.

“We want to meet the needs of everyone if it is possible.
The right of the citizens to view our public art is the No. 1 priority, and
everything else will fall behind that,” he said.

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