LEWISTON — Bates College plans for the first time to create some sort of public art on campus to honors its veterans.

College President Clayton Spencer said in an open letter Thursday that Bates plans “to create a public space on campus to recognize the service and sacrifice of members of the Bates community who are military veterans and to invite reflection on the broader implications of war.”

She said the move “comes in response to the longstanding interest of many in our community in establishing a physical installation on campus to honor veterans.”

Spencer said Bates will form a project committee to draft a request for proposals for the design and location of the site and to have faculty, staff and students weigh in on it in the fall.

“Our aim would be to celebrate the completion of the veterans’ recognition at an appropriate date in the fall of 2019,” Spencer said.

The college’s public arts committee — composed of faculty, staff and students — talked about the idea during the winter after Spencer expressed a desire “to have the college create a space on campus that would recognize the contributions and sacrifice of veterans in the Bates community.”


Her request followed a plea from veterans who attended Bates for some kind of recognition.

She asked the panel to come up with a process and a plan that would “balance a range of strongly held, and not necessarily reconcilable, views on questions of war and military service.”

Spencer said the committee solicited feedback from those who want “to publicly recognize the service and sacrifice of veterans and from others who were concerned that any such recognition by the college might be seen to glorify war and the military without acknowledging the full impact of war.”

After discussion and deliberation, the panel agreed to urge Bates to “create an installation on campus that recognizes the contributions and sacrifice of veterans and invites reflection on the broader context of war and its impact on the lives and experiences of everyone affected by war.”

It called for the site to honor military service “as a form of public service” rather than something that could be seen as “honoring militarism or nationalism.

“It should be thoughtfully located and designed as a place for reflection,” the committee decided, and reflect the contributions and sacrifices of all Bates veterans rather than focusing attention on individuals.


“The installation should be designed to inspire contemplation and welcome the varied interpretations that individuals may bring to the subject of war and military service,” it said. “This would argue for an installation that is abstract rather than figurative.”

As part of the discussion, the committee decided it did not want to accept a bust of George Alexi Whitney, who graduated in 2000, joined the U.S. Marines and died in Afghanistan two years ago.

Spencer said the committee did not question Whitney’s worthiness of the honor, but felt his service “should be honored as part of the broader recognition of Bates veterans.”


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