DESPITE VANDALISM, CONFEDERATE FISH TIES FOR FIRST PLACE IN RICHMOND TROPHY FISH CONTESTChicago started the craze with its Cows on Parade public sculpture exhibit in 1999. Lexington, Kentucky, followed suite with horses. Cincinnati showcased pigs. Now the City of Richmond, Virginia, has gotten in the swim by sponsoring "Go Fish!," a tribute to the rockfish of the James River. Two hundred colorfully decorated rockfish -- sponsored by groups, businesses, and individuals and created by local artists -- have been displayed in various locations around the city since May. After their moment in the sun, the fish will be auctioned off in September to benefit the 1708 Gallery and other nonprofit groups.
Sounds like a worthwhile and entertaining project that not even political correctness could spoil, right? Think again.
Henry Kidd, a well-known artist and Commander of the Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), knows better. His prize-winning "Confederate Legends" fish -- which recently tied for the title of "Richmond Trophy Fish" in a Web poll sponsored by Richmond's NBC affliate (see http://www.nbc12.com/gofish/) -- has been the target of vandalism.
Describing the damage to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Kidd said "They broke a fin off. They threw mud on it, and they inscribed a vulgarity on Lee's horse."
[Photograph from Virginia Division SCV]
Kidd's fish, which was sponsored by the Virginia SCV and is reminiscent of their proposed license plate design -- which Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mark Earley has been opposing in the courts -- features Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart silhouetted against a golden sunset. The head of the colorful fish is painted to suggest the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virgina; the stars on the tail are arranged in the ark pattern that General Lee used on his headquarters flag.
Although about a dozen other display entries also sustained damage, Kidd believes that his fish was singled out because of its Confederate theme. Its original out-of-the-way location on historic Brown's Island near Canal Walk -- the site of the mural of Lee that so enraged Richmond City Councilman Sa'ad El Amin in 1999 [see related story] -- suggests that it was sought out deliberately by attackers who know exactly what they were looking for and where to find it.
Kidd further called the vandalism "a sad commentary on some of the people of Richmond," adding "Richmond is a place that should not be ashamed of its history."
Following the vandalism, Kidd took the fish home for repairs and planned to place it in a new location outside the Museum of the Confederacy at 12th and Clay Streets, where Museum President J.E.B. Stuart IV, great-grandson of the Confederate cavalry general of the same name, declared that it would be welcome.
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